Sergei Lavrov receives a warm welcome in South Africa
Et was a meeting among friends with a lot of symbolic power: South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor met her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov warmly welcomed in Pretoria on Monday morning. The two ministers assured each other of their support. Pandor spoke of “fruitful discussions”, Lavrov emphasized the “regular political dialogue” with South Africa and the “broad cooperation” in the areas of economy, high technology and the military.
While the South African minister expressed hope that negotiations would bring the Ukraine conflict to a peaceful end, Lavrov accused the American, British and European governments of blocking negotiations. “It is obvious that the problem is the lack of negotiations.”
of South Africa Government insists on “neutrality” in Ukraine conflict. President Cyril Ramaphosa has repeatedly offered to act as mediator. So far, South Africa has abstained from all United Nations votes on the Ukraine war. In their own country, this course is not without controversy. Sections of the opposition and the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), have repeatedly demanded that the government condemn the invasion and human rights violations and press for Russia to withdraw, especially since the West is a far more important economic partner.
South Africa chairs the BRICS group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and will host a BRICS summit this year. Economic relations and trade with Russia have so far been manageable, but are to be expanded. To this end, the second Russia-Africa Summit is scheduled to take place this year. The close ties that existed between the African National Congress in power today and the Soviet Union during the resistance struggle against the apartheid regime are also noticeable to this day. Russia is also popular with many younger South Africans.
The South African government had previously described the Russian Foreign Minister’s one-day flying visit as a “normal visit”. The fact that the two countries also want to cooperate militarily became apparent a few days ago when the South African Ministry of Defense announced a joint naval exercise with Russia and China off the east coast of the country. The exercise is scheduled to take place in February, when the Russian invasion of the Ukraine first anniversary on February 24th. Critics have said it was a questionable, ill-timed exercise that could strain relations with the United States and European countries.
Shortly after Lavrov, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected in South Africa, at the end of an eleven-day trip to Africa. At a recent summit meeting, the American government announced investments of 55 billion dollars on the continent. In South Africa, the finance minister is also expected to appeal to the government to switch to an environmentally friendly energy supply.
Another issue is likely to be a bill passed by the House of Representatives last year that could lead to sanctions for African governments and companies doing business with sanctioned Russian companies. Pandor has repeatedly called for the draft to be withdrawn. According to press reports, Lavrov will also visit Esvatini, Botswana and Angola.