South Africa says it will not be bullied by the West into taking certain foreign policy positions on global issues.
At a meeting with visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said her country will only make independent decisions.
Ms Pandor spoke shortly after visiting US Secretary Blinken said the United States had no intentions to compete for dominance on the continent against China or Russia. Mr Blinken is currently on a tour of Africa and spent three days in South Africa before going to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday and Rwanda on Wednesday.
In their talks, Ms Pandor and Mr Blinken touched on extending South Africa’s trading partnership with the United States. As expected, another issue that came into sharp focus was South Africa’s neutral position on the war in Ukraine. Alongside 16 other African countries, South Africa avoided the United Nations vote condemning Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.
Ms Pandor restated that her country had pushed for peace talks between the two countries, adding that her discussions around the war with Mr Blinken were “respectful”. However, she voiced concerns over US legislation which could see countries that side with Russia face punishment.
“You cannot say that because Africa is doing this, you will be punished by the United States...We must respect our ability to hold different positions. We are sovereign states. One thing I dislike is being told to choose this or that. I will not be bullied that way, nor would I expect any other African country to agree to be treated that way,” Ms Pandor said.
She clarified South Africa’s position with Russia, saying they were “an economic partner”. “But it is less than $4 billion in trade compared to the $20 billion ... with the US,” she said, adding that fears that Russia enjoyed excessive influence over South Africa were unfounded.
Mr Blinken further reiterated that they sought a “true partnership” between the United States and Africa. “We do not want an imbalanced and transactional relationship. Our commitment to this stronger partnership is not about trying to outdo anyone else. We have all heard the narrative that Africa is the latest playing field in the competition among great powers.
"That is not how we see our engagement here. South Africa is a powerful, dynamic country. We know that in the spirit of a true partnership, we can do good for our people and our countries.”