The South African government shouldn’t be deterred by sheer attempts of the United States of America (US) in coercing it to side with them on current geopolitical tensions.
US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, held a media briefing in which he accused SA of selling weapons to Russia in December 2022. Brigety does this in a peculiar way deviant from normal cordial diplomatic channels that exists between two nations. Neither does he provide proof of such allegations.
This was clearly to stair a negative debate on SA’s relationship with Russia and membership to BRICS.
Pax Americana is under the most serious threat since its inception in 1945. US’ global dominance economically, culturally and militarily is under threat. Like the last bite of a dying snake, the US is at its venomous dangerous mode.
Western hemisphere, or the north pole is pained by South Africa’s position on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. SA government has been consistent on its position that they are none-partisan in the conflict, while advocating for a negotiated peace settlement between two former Soviet Union allies. But the western powers aren’t interested in that because a peaceful Russia-Ukrainian doesn’t advance its interests.
SA is an important strategic country for the West into the continent. The US is a leader of the Western Uni-polar global model since 1945 and more significantly post Cold War.
Admittedly, the United States is one of SA’s biggest trading partners. South Africa hosts about 600 US businesses, some as headquarters for its businesses in the rest of African continent. SA accounts for 25% of US’ Africa investment income. It is also the biggest economy in the Southern African Developing Community (SADC) region and one of the three biggest economies on the continent.
However, the Chinese have been increasing their trade with SA too, and so is their footprint in other African states. China surpassed the US as SA’s biggest trade partner in 2009. Russia may not be one of the biggest trade partners with SA but the two countries hold strong political ties. Russia has been looking to expand its trade and military powers in recent years within the continent.
SA is one of the important BRICS members together with Brazil, Russia, India and China. There are more countries in the pro of joining BRICS, and of particular significance, including several Arab nations.
With SA poised to host the BRICS summit in August this year, it becomes a country of interest in geopolitical gymnastics. This includes the International Criminal Court (ICC) pending warrant of arrest against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Spiking tensions between Russia and SA is what the US would want to see happening. It thrives in conflicts and instability of other nations. Ramaphosa shouldn’t fall into the trap that Ukrainian’s Zelenskyy finds himself in. America tried this with China by threatening them with their relations with Russia but they couldn’t succeed – Xi Jinping isn’t a pushover.
China and Russia are leading geopolitical powers advocating for a Multi-polar global model. This would mean tanking off US led western powers over their uni-polar global system. The US has monopoly of global powers over energy and financial systems. There is a long standing concern, globally, that America is abusing the Petro-dollar system to impose its will when it can’t persuade others on the negotiating table, often used to put sanctions to countries and individuals not agreeing with them . This is a sheer abuse of privilege that the US have for using its dollar as a global reserve currency.
The geopolitical discourse on “new world order” has recently reached new levels wherein it would seem irreversible. Though, the shape and form of this new global model isn’t as clear, it’s become crystal clear that more poles are warming up for the idea. Since then America has been in a panic and defensive mode.
A war in Ukraine is a textbook example of proxy war. You don’t need fancy political science tools to analyse that. The paraded argument that Ukraine’s sovereignty is what we must all fight to protect is a sham. If sovereignty is such an important global pillar that the US stands for as a matter of principle, they wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, Libya and many other sovereign states. Their position on Palestine doesn’t reflect a country that respects the sovereignty of other states.
The US is not interested in Ukrainian-Russia negotiated peace deal because that would not serve its interests to tank off Russia’s influence in Europe and the globe. While Ukrainians are dying and their livelihood destroyed, America’s arms business is booming. With the West in a path to destroy Russia by using its global unipolar powers, Russia is lobbying strongly for an alternative global order.
The Asian and Arab poles are warming up for this idea. More than any other pole, it is the Arabic states that are demonstrating enthusiasm on the multi-polar global system. Even within European member states and US, there are voices advocating for a multi-polar global order. Some European countries have began to realise they can’t afford not to have good relations with China.
Africa is the one not well organised to position itself in this geopolitical discourse. Although, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat is on record saying Africa must reject a phenomenon wherein it is turned into an arena for global superpowers’ contest for influence, there is no tangible suggestions that they are ready.
The Arab league is more cohesive than the African Union. Southern Africa needs to be agile in finding a position that will cement a strategic position in the new global order. Africa must not shy away from participating in this discourse. Although some critiques argue that China is advocating for a new order in which they replace the US in the same system, evidence on the ground suggests the opposite.
China has been consistent on its policy position of none interference in domestic affairs of countries they do business with. They focus on trade, and Africa is a huge market that China can not afford to lose. When China increases its trade in the globe, the US increases its military presence. China is offering attractive trade deals as opposed to US led western powers. The US takes paternalistic posture that is still tied to colonial history. It is aware that to win its dominance in Africa, the strategic country in which to begin that mission is SA. To their advantage, SA’s “powers” largely reside in the hands of settler-colonial apartheid economic system – legacy of the imperial system of the very same system they fight to preserve.
SA’s political system led by the African National Congress (ANC), which is a liberation movement, has always been at odds with an economic system led by mineral energy complex, also known as White Monopoly Capital (WMC). The ANC has always struggled to reconcile the two interests. It has remained a delicate phenomenon.
WMC is an important tool in US’ basket to fight for influence in SA and to some extent in the continent. As such it isn’t surprising to see domestic public discourse on SA’s posture in the Ukraine-Russia conflict taking a shape of the apartheid era framework. Whites in general argue for SA to choose America over Russia regardless of conspicuous global transgressions the US has committed in the globe. They often cite economic interests; this is regardless of abundance evidence to confirm that SA is getting a raw deal in our bilateral relations with the US in the current form.
On the other side, South African majority lean towards Russia over US. This is also not surprising given the history of the liberation struggle in Africa and how the Soviet Union played a crucial role. A majority of African people fought for their liberation with support from the then Soviet Union. So, when the Westerners were in cahoots with the apartheid regime, Russia stood with African people in the trenches.
But more importantly for WMC, strong Western influence in SA is a security for their ill-gotten wealth and privilege. Their ancestral bond to Western Europe and western pole in general is almost insoluble. The ongoing SA land question is partly held back by US influence in SA. They always threaten with sanctions and do have the power to collapse the economy or wage a regime change as they have done so elsewhere in the continent. It’s also a common view amongst African intellectuals that for Africa to realise its prosperity, it needs to delink dependency from a western global system that benefits from Africa’s perpetual underdevelopment and poverty.
Therefore, South Africa needs to stand its ground because what they stand for in relation to the Ukraine-Russia conflict is to the interests of everyone. SA’s minister of international relations Dr. Naledi Pandor has been good in articulating the country’s position. If you listen to her speaking on the matter, either on bilateral relations with Russia or its membership to BRICS, nowhere does she say SA is in bilateral relation with Russia primarily because it is a ‘former Soviet Union member’ who supported SA during the liberation struggle. Of course that’s fact of history that doesn’t need emphasis. She is very clear that SA government embraces a notion of a multi-polar global order as shared by BRICS members, and other voices in the world.
Pandor is a proponent of a just, fair, inclusive, equitable and representative multi-polar international system based on important pillars of multilateralism and international laws. Those who distort SA’s position do so mischievously to avoid a legitimate debate around ‘Multi-polar vs Uni-polar’ global model. For they know the odds are against the current system.
So too was the Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni in response to US ambassador to South Africa. She was very clear that, apart from sheer disrespect by the American Ambassador, he must be reminded that SA is not one of US’ states.
South Africa is a sovereign country with both political and economic agency. Bilateral trade that SA enjoys with the US isn’t an act of charity as some would want us to believe. This is a clear business trade relations in which American and South African companies benefit.
South Africans must reject these bullying tactics and see them for what they are. We must equally reject apartheid beneficiaries imposing their US on us to advance their narrow sectional interests.
~ written by TT Maenetša. Race, Culture and Socioeconomic Commentator.