‘More than 150 000 SA jobs at stake’: Calls for govt to rethink Russia stance amid US review | The Citizen

Ramaphosa’s government has been criticised in the US for its refusal to condemn Moscow for invading Ukraine.

ActionSA has called on the African National Congress (ANC) to rethink South Africa’s stance on Russia.

This amid the introduction of the US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act, which requires US President Joe Biden to make determinations about the relationship between the United States and South Africa.

No later than 30 days after the bill’s enactment, Biden must report to Congress on whether South Africa has undermined US national security or foreign policy interests.

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This determination will also be released publicly.

The bill also would require the administration to review the bilateral relationship between the United States and South Africa and report to the Congress on its findings within 120 days of enactment.

In 2022, the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act was introduced, directing the Secretary of State to develop and submit to Congress a strategy and implementation plan outlining United States’ efforts to counter the “malign influence” and activities of Russia and its proxies in Africa.

It also sought to counter such activities and hold accountable African governments and their officials for “aiding” the activities.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has been criticised for its stance and refusal to condemn Moscow for invading Ukraine.

South Africa is among the African countries that have repeatedly abstained from voting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the UN General Assembly, where a resolution that demanded Russia to immediately withdraw from Ukraine was adopted.

South Africa has instead been calling for a dialogue between the two countries to resolve the conflict.

150 000 jobs in South Africa on the line

ActionSA has called on the ANC government to rethink its stance on Russia as the US bill could threaten jobs in the country.

“South Africa is part of Agoa, which gives us preferential trade access to the US markets. South Africa exported goods worth R65.9bn to the US under Agoa in 2023. This trade represents 3.2% of South Africa’s total exports and supports over 150 000 South African jobs,” said ActionSA’s Pieter Scribante.

“In a country which has the highest youth unemployment in the world, South Africa gains nothing from antagonising the West to get closer to the East and Brics. We can play both sides and benefit from it.

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“Furthermore, losing Agoa and cosying up to Russia could harm investment inflows into South Africa, which will further cripple the economy, worsen unemployment, and reduce our development prospects.

“The government should support local businesses, entrepreneurs, and the country’s citizens. Solving South Africa’s unemployment crisis should be the government’s first priority, and losing our preferential trade status with the US directly works against this.”

Ramaphosa has previously defended South Africa’s foreign policy, and said the US’ laws concerning Russian activities in Africa “could have the unintended consequence of punishing the continent for efforts to advance development and growth”.

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“Both the US and Russia are strategic partners for South Africa. As a sovereign country that pursues an independent foreign policy, the Bill seems to punish those who hold independent views. It is disappointing that this Bill has been crafted at a time when President Biden has sought to engage African countries on the basis of respect for their independence and sovereignty,” said Ramaphosa during a meeting with the congressional black caucus and anti-apartheid veterans during his visit to the United States.

However, John Stremlau, Honorary Professor, International Relations, at the University of the Witwatersrand, has previously told The Citizen that Biden regarded Agoa as “a win-win”.

“An anticipated reciprocation by Africa is the position of the Republicans, while the Biden administration sees this as a win-win for the US to have increasing trade and economic development and downstream manufacturing exports into the US market. 

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“After all, Africa comprises only 1% of US trade with the world and yet there are 40 million African-Americans in the US – a very important interest group that is part of the US pluralism.

“Agoa does not expire until 2025 and it is conceivable that Biden, who is a strong supporter of Agoa, his administration and the Democrats, may choose to go ahead and forego any congressional debate.”

Additional reporting by Brian Sokutu

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