President Cyril Ramaphosa sought to allay global jitters ahead of the BRICS summit and affirmed South Africa’s neutrality in the shifting global power dynamics.
On Sunday night, the president addressed the nation on South Africa’s foreign policy and the upcoming BRICS summit.
“We will not be drawn into a contest between global powers,” Ramaphosa said, adding that the country was committed to a policy of non-alignment.
“We have resisted pressure to align ourselves with any one of the global powers or with influential blocs of nations. During the Cold War, the stability and sovereignty of many African countries were undermined because of their alignment with major powers. This experience has convinced us of the need to seek strategic partnerships with other countries, rather than be dominated by any [one] country.”
The president said while some of the country’s detractors preferred overt support for their political and ideological choices “we will not be drawn into a contest between global powers”.
He said instead, South Africa strived to work with all countries for global peace and development.
“It is for this reason that SA is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a forum of some 120 countries that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
“Our decision not to align with any one of the global powers does not mean that we are neutral on matters of principle or national interest,” Ramaphosa said.
“Our nonaligned position exists alongside our active support for the struggles of the oppressed and marginalised people in different parts of the world.
“We always believed that the freedom that we won and the international solidarity from which we benefitted immensely imposes a duty on us to support the struggles of those who continue to experience colonialism and racial oppression; that is why we will continue to support the struggles of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara,” the president said.
Ramaphosa gave his full support to the expansion of BRICS member countries, saying an expanded BRICS would result in a more balanced global order.
During the live televised address, Ramaphosa said 20 countries had applied for BRICS membership and several others had expressed an interest in becoming part of its family.
“South Africa supports the expansion of the membership of BRICS. The value of BRICS extends beyond the interest of its current members,” he added.
Currently, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa form the BRICS community, which makes up a quarter of the global economy, accounts for a fifth of global trade and is home to 40% of the world’s population.
More than 30 heads of state are in South Africa for the 15th BRICS Summit, which starts on Tuesday and ends on Thursday.
Ramaphosa had indicated during an ANC meeting in Joburg on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would join the summit virtually.
“Together the BRICS members have used their collective voice to call for a world that is more equitable, balanced and governed by an inclusive system of global governance,” said Ramaphosa on Sunday.
He added that being a member of BRICS had created positive opportunities for South Africa, enabling the country to develop a strategic relationship with China, the second biggest economy in the world.
Based on the relationship between the countries, Ramaphosa said he would be signing several agreements with President Xi Jinping.
In 2025, South Africa is set to assume the presidency of the G20 group of nations and will be the first African country to host a G20 summit on African soil.