Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 14.2023
2023.04.03 — 2023.04.09
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Avoid collision course with Russia by pulling South Africa out of ICC, Vuyo Zungula urges Ramaphosa (Избегать столкновения с Россией, выводя Южную Африку из МУС, призывает Рамафоса Вуйо Зунгула) / South Africa, April, 2023
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, quotation
South Africa

Pretoria – Opposition party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to resuscitate South Africa's bid to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) before the 15th BRICS summit scheduled for Durban in August.

Controversy has mired the upcoming the BRICS summit, after the ICC issued a warrant of arrest for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of committing war crimes in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The letter to Ramaphosa, written by ATM leader Vuyo Zungula, seen by IOL, is also addressed to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola, and International Relations Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor.

Zungula highlighted South Africa's previous bid to withdraw from the ICC, which was thwarted on a technicality by the High Court in Pretoria in February 2017, and urges the government to follow correct procedure this time, and dump the Rome Statute of the ICC.

ATM president Vuyo Zungula with Mzwanele Manyi and former advocate Malesela Teffo in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA) "It is common cause that the North Gauteng High Court of the Republic of South Africa has on 22 February 2017, issued a judgment in the matter between the Democratic Alliance and the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and others and found that the approval of the Parliament of South Africa had to be obtained before the instrument of withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court can be deposited with the United Nations as provided for In Article 127(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court," Zungula wrote.

Consequently, the superior court ruled in favour of the DA, finding that, at the time, the government's submission of an instrument of withdrawal from the ICC was "unconstitutional and invalid".

"In order to remedy this technical defect pointed out by the High Court, the ATM is calling on you to urgently resuscitate the earlier submission by the 5th administration; seek approval from Parliament and on exactly the same grounds that were submitted before, resubmit the withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC accordingly," Zungula said.

"The forthcoming BRICS meeting to be hosted by South Africa in August 2023, is too important for the country to allow it to either be overshadowed by President Vladimir Putin's absence or arrest on our soil."

The South African government has recently indicated that Putin has been formally invited to attend the 15th BRICS summit later this year, but the matter has become a headache for Pretoria after the ICC issued a warrant of arrest for the Russian leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Mikhail Metzel / SPUTNIK / AFP The warrant of arrest means South Africa, which is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, would be obliged to arrest Putin and hand him over, if he sets foot on its soil.

However, Zungula cautioned that any attempt to detain the Russian president would be detrimental for South Africa.

"If the intention of the government, is to arrest President Vladimir Putin, then we would strongly caution against such an act. You would be aware of the recent statement made by the former President of Russia and current deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia Mr Dmitry Medvedev, when he said that, if President Putin were to be arrested on foreign soil, that act would be interpreted as 'a declaration of war'.

"And we cannot stress this point enough, South Africans do not intend for this country to be a war-zone like Eastern Europe," Zungula said.

Zungula said Putin's absence at the upcoming BRICS summit was not a viable solution.

"If President Putin is asked not to attend this important BRICS summit, it would play to the western narrative that his friends have isolated him, and that would undermine the historic BRICS summit later this year.

"Putin's absence at the insistence of the South African government, would not only undermine the de-dollarisation process initiated by BRICS nations and other progressive nations of the world but could further discourage other heads of state from attending what is supposed to be a historic summit," Zungula said.

Last week, the ruling ANC said it is conducting internal consultations about the implications of the ICC's warrant of arrest issued for Putin, a close ally of Pretoria who is scheduled to visit South Africa.

As months edge closer before the landmark BRICS summit, ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the party was weighing its options.

"The ANC has taken note of the ICC's decision on Russian President Vladimir Putin and it is engaging its deployees in government to gain an in-depth understanding about the implications of this route taken by the court," she said.

EFF leader Julius Malema has also weighed in on the debacle, insisting that no one would block or arrest Putin if he visits South Africa for the scheduled BRICS summit.

"Putin is welcome here, and no one is going to arrest Putin. If need be, we are going to fetch Putin from the airport, take him to his meeting where he will address and finish his meetings, and we will take him back to the airport," Malema told journalists in Joburg.

"We are not going to be told by these hypocrites of the International Criminal Court who know the real violators of human rights, the murderers of this world.

EFF leader Julius Malema addressing a press conference. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) "The former prime minister (of England) Tony Blair admitted that he made a horrible mistake when it comes to Saddam Hussein – they have not been charged today. Bush is still there, and they have not been charged. Barack Obama killed (Muammar) Gaddafi, and nothing has happened."

Putin is expected to attend the BRICS summit with Ramaphosa, President Xi Jinping of China, President Lula da Silva of Brazil and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Xi met Putin last month during the Chinese leader's first visit to Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine.
                SACP rejects ICC arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, calls on SA to withdraw from world body (Коммунистическая партия ЮАР отклоняет ордер МУС на арест Владимира Путина и призывает ЮАР выйти из МУС) / South Africa, April, 2023
                Keywords: summit, expert_opinion
                South Africa

                Johannesburg - The South African Communist Party (SACP) says it rejects the arrest warrant issued to Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in the Hague, Netherlands.

                According to the Communist Party, the arrest warrant, based on 'frivolous charges' comes on the eve of an important proposal for peace in Ukraine by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to Russia, and the BRICS Summit due to be hosted by South Africa.

                The SACP said this in a statement that after having held its annual augmented central committee meeting over the weekend in Johannesburg.

                The meeting included expanded representation from SACP provinces and districts, as well as from the Young Communist League of South Africa.

                According to the SACP, the ICC was established to try individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.
                "Unfortunately, imperialist powers continue to manipulate this multilateral institution and use it for judicial imperialism. Despite many calls and ample evidence, the ICC has consistently refused to charge the likes of Netanyahu, Bush, Clinton, Blair, and Obama, who have destroyed countries and killed thousands of people in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yugoslavia, with the continued occupation of other countries' territories like Syria, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and the Korean peninsula," the Party said.

                It called on the South African government to ensure that President Putin attends the BRICS Summit and afforded safe passage.

                "Furthermore, the SACP calls upon the government to act with speed in withdrawing from the ICC and repealing the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002," read the statement.
                              Dangerous liaisons: SA's Russian roulette jeopardises trade agreements with US and other Western nations (Опасные связи: ЮАР играет в русскую рулетку ставит под угрозу торговые соглашения с США и другими западными странами) / South Africa, April, 2023
                              Keywords: expert_opinion, trade_relations
                              South Africa

                              The International Criminal Court's (ICC's) arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin puts at stake South Africa's privileged exports to America. The ICC problem encapsulates South Africa's growing dilemma, as its ever-warmer embrace of Russia and China, in particular, increasingly irritates its Western economic partners.

                              BeyondWords The arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Russian President Vladimir Putin has further complicated South Africa's already tense relations with the US and could jeopardise its privileged exports to America.

                              The ICC problem encapsulates South Africa's growing dilemma, as its ever-warmer embrace of Russia and China, in particular, increasingly irritates its Western economic partners.

                              They are finding it difficult to understand why the ANC government is drifting ever further away from its proclaimed non­-aligned position and closer to the West's rivals – even though South Africa's eco­nomic ties with the West are so much more valuable.

                              South Africa exported about 178 times more to the EU, the US and the UK in 2022 than to Russia and nearly four times more than it exported to China.

                              In 2022, South Africa exported goods worth more than R53-billion to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which gives SA duty- and quota-free access to the US market.

                              This represented an increase of about 50% over 2021. The 2022 figure represented about 20% of total SA exports to the US of R257-billion and largely contributed to SA recording a trade surplus with the US of about R141-billion.

                              But South Africa's refusal to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year – and its growing ties with Moscow, Beijing and other Western enemies such as Iran – could jeopardise its Agoa privileges.

                              South Africa is due to host this year's Agoa summit. It was originally scheduled to be held in September – just days after the country is to host the annual summit of the BRICS Forum – comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

                              International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor recently confirmed that Putin had been invited to attend the BRICS summit, along with the leaders of the other BRICS nations.

                              But last month Putin was indicted by the ICC, which issued a warrant for his arrest for complicity in the alleged abduction of Ukrainian children and deportation of them to Russia.

                              If South Africa welcomes a fugitive from the ICC in August, many, perhaps all, of the US Senators and Representatives due to attend the Agoa summit in September would probably not attend.

                              And they are the ones who have to decide whether South Africa continues to be a beneficiary of Agoa – or even if the whole programme is renewed when it expires in 2025.

                              In February, the chairperson of the US House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee and other Republicans tabled a resolution calling on the Biden administration to review US relations with South Africa, including its Agoa benefits, because of its growing ties with Russia and China, and diminishing links with the US.

                              House Resolution 145 cited a joint naval exercise South Africa conducted with Russia and China off the KwaZulu-Natal coast in February and also expressed concerns about China allegedly being allowed to establish "police stations" in South Africa to monitor Chinese dissidents.

                              Western officials have also noted with concern the recent arrival of the massive Chinese satellite- and missile-tracking ship Yuan Wang 5 in Durban and of the Iranian Navy's large forward base ship Makran and corvette Dena in Cape Town. Both visits are being seen as signs of increasing military engagement with autocratic rivals of the West.

                              "You say you're non-aligned but over the last few months, you haven't been looking non-aligned," said one Western diplomat. He also cited Pandor's recent insistence that "we have made it clear that Russia is a friend" and that the two would not become sudden enemies "on the demand of others". This week's visit of an ANC delegation – including deputy minister of international relations Alvin Botes – to Moscow to visit Putin's United Russia Party is also being seen as evidence of an increasingly "aligned" position by SA.

                              The US and SA are apparently scrambling to get around the problem of the proximity of the BRICS and Agoa summits, possibly by rescheduling or moving the Agoa summit elsewhere.

                              Pretoria is also trying to figure out how to manage the Putin dilemma. As a member of the ICC, it is legally obliged to arrest him if he sets foot in South Africa. The government is seeking legal advice on how to invite him yet not have to arrest him.

                              But most legal experts believe Pretoria will have to ask him not to visit South Africa for the BRICS summit.

                              Some economic commentators are perplexed that Pretoria could be jeopardising its valuable economic ties with the US and other Western states in favour of better ties with states such as Russia, China and Iran, with which it does relatively little commerce.

                              "Russia has never broken one percent of our trade in the last 10 years," says Donald MacKay, head of XA Global Trade Advisors.

                              "So, what do we wish to gain by taking the stance that we are taking on Russia?"

                              MacKay sees exports as the touchstone of trade relations. He notes that in 2022, nearly 22% of SA's exports went to the EU, almost 9% to the US and and just over 5% to the UK – a total of 35.6% to the three main Western markets.

                              MacKay also notes that a total of 65% of South African exports in 2021 had gone to the 144 nations that voted in the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Just 26% of SA's exports went to the 31 countries that, like SA, abstained from the vote. And only 0.31% of exports went to the seven states that voted against condemnation of Russia.

                              MacKay notes Daily Maverick had recently reported that Pandor had said South Africa's membership of BRICS was helping it to expand trade and investment in the Global South. She said total South African trade with BRICS had increased from R487-billion in 2017 to R702-billion in 2021.

                              But MacKay said SA's trade with the major Western nations had been much more beneficial, as a considerably greater share of its exports to these markets had been of value-added, manufactured goods which create more jobs.

                              The EU says that the largest share – 22% – of SA exports to the union in 2021 was in motor vehicles. And machinery, vehicles, electronics, other manufactured goods, clothing and chemicals totalled some 31% of SA exports to the US in 2021, whereas a much larger percentage of exports to the BRICS countries has been in raw materials – in the case of China especially.

                              SA's exports to Russia were a minuscule 0.23% of all exports in 2021, MacKay says.

                              Some analysts fear that SA could lose its Agoa benefits even sooner, but MacKay suspects SA could lose them in 2025 when the US Congress reviews Agoa.

                              If that happens, the greatest impact would be on the auto industry, he said. "The automotive industry cannot simply replace lost US exports with exports elsewhere."

                              MacKay notes that, although many EU countries were also irked by South Africa's drift further into the Russia/China camp, the reciprocal free trade agreement with the union would give SA some protection, "as they can't simply withdraw benefits" as the US can.

                              "But we may find it takes very long for the newly negotiated improved access to things like wine to materialise," he said. And he also thought the EU could be less cooperative in dealing with other trade issues, such as, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism in Europe to tax the trade in carbon-­intensive goods.

                              One US analyst of America's relations with SA notes that although House Resolution 145 is a directive with few teeth, it sends a message to the administration and to SA that the Congress is watching them.

                              He also notes there is growing discomfort with SA's position as articulated by Pandor last week – when she insisted that Russia would remain SA's friend regardless of criticism from the West – and also about former president Thabo Mbeki's assertion that the world would be better off with a diversified financial system rather than an over-reliance on the US dollar – a reliance he suggested the conflict in Ukraine had aggravated.

                              "Removal from Agoa is a possibility," he believes, especially because the Republicans control the House of Representatives. But he also believes that the Democratic Senate and the Democratic Biden administration might put the brakes on that.

                              "I doubt it will go that far, as we have other matters to engage on with SA, including the $700-million a year the US spends on healthcare in South Africa."

                              Veteran Washington-based South Africa watcher Tony Carroll, the director of Acorus Capital and adjunct professor in the African Studies programme at Johns Hopkins University, agrees, saying: "I would not sound the alarm bells now, but I do detect a faint smell of smoke." DM168

                              Trade facts

                              Exports from SA in 2022

                              To the EU: 21.7%

                              To the US: 8.8%

                              To the UK: 5.1%

                              (a total of 35.6% to those three Western regions)

                              To China: 9.4%

                              To Russia: just 0.23%

                              (According to EU Trade)

                              Motor vehicles account for the highest share of SA's exports to the EU, at 22%. In 2022, SA recorded a trade surplus with the EU of about R36-billion.

                              (Source: EU Embassy, Pretoria)

                              Agoa In 2022, SA exports to the US under Agoa totalled more than R53-billion, an increase from just over R37-billion in 2021. The 2022 figure represented about 20% of total SA exports to the US of R257-billion and largely contributed to SA recording a trade surplus of R141-billion with the US in 2022.

                              (Source: US Embassy, Pretoria)

                              Investments Origin of FDI stock in SA in 2020

                              EU: 40.3%

                              UK: 30.5%

                              US: 6.5%

                              China: 4.9%

                              Africa: 4.5%

                              Russia: 1.37%

                              (Source: Russian embassy for the Russian figure; South African Reserve Bank March 2022 Bulletin for the rest)

                              In the recent United Nations vote on whether Russia should withdraw from Ukraine, 144 countries voted for it to withdraw (31 were African – 22% of the votes, but 66% of the African vote). A total of 31 abstained, including South Africa and 15 other African states, and seven voted for Russia to remain (the usual reprobates, such as North Korea, Eritrea and, of course, Russia). The rest didn't vote. A total of 65% of SA exports go to the countries that voted for Russia to leave Ukraine, 26% to the abstentions and 0.31% to those who voted in support of Russia.
                                            Investment and Finance
                                            Investment and finance in BRICS
                                            EU provoking Tunisia to seek out funding from BRICS — party (ЕС провоцирует Тунис искать финансирование у БРИКС) / Russia, April, 2023
                                            Keywords: economic_challenges

                                            Mahmoud Ben Mabrouk said that "Tunisia will not persist in its efforts to conclude an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide financial assistance to the republic"

                                            RABAT, April 9. /TASS/. The European Union, which has delayed providing financial assistance to Tunisia, has been encouraging the republic to move toward BRICS, spokesman for the July 25 Movement Mahmoud Ben Mabrouk said, according to Mosaique FM.

                                            According to him, "Tunisia will not persevere with its efforts to conclude an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the provision of financial aid to the republic," the radio reported on Saturday.

                                            "Tunisia opened up several opportunities to the EU to give the country economic support. But the Europeans were slow, which pushed Tunisia to moving toward the BRICS group for funding and investments," Mabrouk said. This conclusion is not a result of political analysis, but is based on information about negotiations and communication, he explained. Mabrouk refused to elaborate further.

                                            On April 6, Tunisian President Kais Saied said that under no circumstances would his country "hear diktats" from abroad. The head of state referred to the terms of a stalled $1.9 billion IMF loan.

                                                          Political Events
                                                          Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                          Sergey Lavrov's meeting with ambassadors from the BRICS countries (Встреча Сергея Лаврова с послами стран БРИКС) / Russia, April, 2023
                                                          Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, sergey_lavrov

                                                          On April 10 this year, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold a working breakfast with the heads of the diplomatic missions of the BRICS countries in Moscow.

                                                          This format has become a tradition and has won the reputation of a popular venue for the sincere exchange of views on a broad range of international issues. At the upcoming meeting, the participants plan to discuss urgent global issues and the promotion of cooperation in BRICS.

                                                          During South Africa's BRICS Presidency this year, the countries in the association will conduct intensive work on key areas of strategic partnership in politics and security, the economy and finances, culture and humanitarian ties. We welcome the priorities set by our South African partners, including the line towards strengthening ties with Africa. We intend to promote Russia's initiatives and are interested to constructively cooperating with our partners in all areas.

                                                          BRICS is a unique example of building interstate relations along the lines of mutual respect and consideration of interests of all association members. Today, the Five is the guardian of genuine multipolarity. It expresses the views of the developing nations.

                                                                        World of Work
                                                                        SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                        Minister: Russia will develop international scientific station on Spitsbergen (Министр: Россия будет развивать международную научную станцию на Шпицбергене) / Russia, April, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: partnership

                                                                        Russia will also develop a museum complex and will preserve the "unique Soviet-Arctic heritage of the trust company"

                                                                        MOSCOW, April 6. /TASS/. The Arktikugol (Arctic coal) Trust Company will develop the international scientific station on the Spitsbergen Archipelago, including with BRICS counterparts, Minister for Development of the Far East and Arctic Alexey Chekunov posted on Telegram on Wednesday.

                                                                        A year earlier, the Russian government ordered the ministry to undertake management of the company, which since 1931 had been providing Russia's presence on Spitsbergen.

                                                                        "The trust company's future would be to slow down systematically the coal production, to develop tourism (our towns are the planet's northernmost settlements), to develop the international Arctic scientific station, including with BRICS counterparts," the minister wrote.

                                                                        Russia will also develop a museum complex and will preserve the "unique Soviet-Arctic heritage of the trust company." Earlier, the minister said coal was not Spitsbergen's future.

                                                                        "For decades, the company [Arktikugol] has been suffering losses, with the worn-out infrastructures, with personnel mainly from Ukraine. It has been producing low-quality coal, and now the company is caught in transport, financial and commercial blockades. No one was allowed, no coal was bought, Western tourists announced a boycott. We have changed the management team, <...> have allocated funds from the federal budget to upgrade infrastructures in Barentsburg and Pyramida, have attracted large Russian businesses to consume Spitsbergen's coal," the minister added.

                                                                        Arktikugol owns on Spitsbergen an area of 251 sq. km. The archipelago is attractive for tourists.
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