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Ramaphosa calls Putin to discuss food and fertiliser su...

South Africa

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE

Ramaphosa calls Putin to discuss food and fertiliser supplies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine scrambled global markets

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: / Alexey Nikolsky / Sputnik / Kremlin pool) | President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Twitter / @PresidencyZA)

During a phone call on Wednesday, the two BRICS leaders stressed intention to ‘expand mutually beneficial cooperation’

President Cyril Ramaphosa had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, during which they discussed possible deliveries of Russian agricultural products and fertilisers to Africa, including South Africa.

“The presidents expressed satisfaction with the current level of the two countries’ strategic partnership and stressed the shared intention to expand mutually beneficial cooperation, above all in trade, the economy, and investment,” a Kremlin press release said. 

“They also discussed in detail issues of food security, including the supply of Russian agricultural products and fertilisers to the African continent, in particular South Africa. The leaders also noted the importance of joint work within BRICS in order to further promote the role of this association in global politics and economics.”

The Kremlin said Ramaphosa had initiated the call and that the two leaders had agreed to maintain contact.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, confirmed the call had taken place and that “the two leaders held a discussion on issues of trade and investment and the BRICS partnership”.

BRICS summit

The discussion was also in the context of the upcoming BRICS summit next week, he added, referring to the annual summit of the BRICS partnership — comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The summit will be hosted by China, but will take place virtually. 

The Kremlin’s announcement that Russia could deliver food and fertiliser to South Africa and the rest of the continent comes against the background of Russia’s war against Ukraine causing major food shortages and price increases across the world, particularly in wheat, as both countries produce a large share of the world’s supply.

Africa’s Richest Man Is Betting $21 Billion on Oil and Fertiliser

The shortages and price hikes have been felt acutely in Africa, and African Union chairperson Macky Sall, who is also the president of Senegal, and African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat recently discussed this at a meeting with Putin in Sochi, Russia. 

Sall said afterwards that Putin had pledged to address the food crisis but he did not elaborate. Russia has blamed it on Western sanctions imposed on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Western governments insist that the grain shortage, in particular, has been caused mainly by Russia blockading Ukrainian ports and preventing exports.

Western governments have accused Russia of manipulating food supplies to gain a diplomatic advantage. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently stated: “There are credible reports, including as we saw in one of our leading newspapers today, that Russia is pilfering Ukraine’s grain exports, to sell for its own profit.”

(See: Africa must separate the wheat from Russia’s geopolitical chaff)

A US State Department official told the Institute for Security Studies: “We have seen the reports of Russia stealing Ukrainian supplies, including Maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS) records that indicate that Russian commercial cargo vessels are departing from near Ukraine with their cargo holds full of grain.

“Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) made an official announcement strongly condemning the Russian Federation’s action in disposing of grain that was seized from Ukrainian farmers.  

“Ukraine’s MFA reported that Russia seized at least 400,000 to 500,000 tons of grain worth over $100-million. Ukraine’s MFA also has numerous testimonies from Ukrainian farmers and documentary evidence showing Russia’s theft of Ukrainian grain.” 

Second phone call

Wednesday’s phone call was the second between Ramaphosa and Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. On 10 March, Ramaphosa called Putin, later thanking him for taking his call, “so I could gain a better understanding of the situation that is unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.

“I outlined our position on the conflict that has unfolded as well as our belief that the conflict should be resolved through mediation and negotiation between the parties and — if need be — with the help of agencies that can help bring a solution to the conflict.

“President Putin appreciated our balanced approach. We believe this position can enable both parties to subject the conflict to mediation and negotiation. Based on our relations with the Russian Federation and as a member of BRICS, South Africa has been approached to play a mediation role.”

Ramaphosa never divulged who had approached him to play a mediation role and no such role has since emerged.

The first call to Putin attracted considerable criticism, in part because Ramaphosa appeared to adopt such a deferential tone to Putin. His euphemistic characterisation of the war as “the situation that is unfolding between Russia and Ukraine” was particularly criticised.

A hundred bucks for cooking oil? How sky-high prices are frying your budget

Ukraine officials were also annoyed that he had made no effort to call their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and noted: “It takes two to mediate.” 

The criticism appeared to spur Pretoria into action and it did then request a phone call with Zelensky, which took place two weeks later. 

No details have yet emerged of what Ramaphosa and Putin discussed this week about BRICS, other than that it included next week’s summit. 

BRICS ‘counterweight”

BRICS sees itself as a counterweight to what its members regard as Western dominance in the world. It conducts various joint programmes, mainly in the field of development, partly funded through its New Development Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to each of the five member states, most recently to combat the Covid pandemic.

It is not clear how the Russian war against Ukraine might affect cooperation among its members, especially in light of the severe Western sanctions imposed on Russia.

Last month, Russian Industry Minister Denis Manturov raised eyebrows when he proposed at a meeting of BRICS industry ministers that all five countries should jointly refine oil and gas and develop green energy — avoiding the need for “unreliable external partners”. This was seen by some as a Russian attempt to bypass Western sanctions by calling on its BRICS allies. 

South African officials said this proposal would be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of BRICS energy ministers. DM

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All Comments 29

  • Ramaphosa is a fickle and treacherous leader, with no morals, shame or integrity, who cosy’s up to a mass murderer and criminal KGB monster. This even after the world has witnessed the savage barbarity, wholesale mass murder and destruction of a neighbour by unleashing an unprovoked and unjustified war. He deserves every that is coming to him. Typical ANC rubbish that has so ill-served this country to its detriment. To hell with him, his useless party and the obnoxious Putin.

  • I just couldn’t get myself to read beyond the point where our president brown-noses Putin and thanks him for taking his call, ‘to better understand the conflict.’ Will South Africa stoop so low to accept Russian grain actually stolen from Ukraine? Without question… our norms have changed so substantially that a criminal act has become the standard.

  • Putin couldn’t care less about his own people; Ramaphosa must be living in a fool’s paradise to think that Putin is concerned, or even interested in what is happening here at the southern tip of Africa.

  • Dear mr president
    This is not a wise thing to do. We know you have your back against the wall , but looking for help from mr Putin is not a good idea. He is going to have you for breakfast – live.
    You are not in his league, mr president – not even in the field of bribery and corruption. He is not a Gupta-gummy bear.
    Wake up! Look around you and try, just for once, to do the right thing.
    You are such a disappointment!

    • I’ve read the responses so far. Political alliances are meant for very times like these. I refer to the economic ties of BRICSA . If you think that politics has a social and moral entity, you are sorely mistaken. Everything is about power and money. And if our president finds himself on tbe rugby field, of course he will play the ball in the rules of rugby. To play your suburb tennis rules on a rugby field would be absurd. Im not keen that SA is aligned with China and Russia either, but we are. Yebo.

  • If we didn’t know the truth before, we know it now. How can someone who is “anti-corruption” tolerate someone like Putin unless they are themselves corrupt?

  • I sailed with mainly Russian speaking Ukrainian crews for 14 years. Every one of them was happy to be “Russian” but equally happy to be Ukrainian nationals. The best crews I have ever sailed with. Ya nie gaverou por rusky herashor.

  • How sad that Ramaphosa behaves in a manner that is totally amoral when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Does he seriously believe that any South African who is able to read, or has access to the news, is anything other than embarrassed – and infuriated by his mealy-mouthed lies and pretense at being a mediator?

  • I know my post is going to raise many eyebrows, so I start by saying that I am not a Putin supporter and I don’t support any act of agression and invasion of any sovereign nation. But I am tired of the one sided way in which comments are made on this war, which has been covered by the biased media to paint the russians as the bad guys and the invasion as one of a kind. This situation was planned and put into motion by the US government with a very clear policy and agenda and we are all being dragged and polarized by it. If anyone wants a more balanced view on what is really behind this invasion please watch any of Noam Chomsky’s latest youtube interviews, especially in the context of his book, Manufactured Consent. It shocks me that the world has closed ranks, formed a position and applied sanctions to the agressor, in this case Russia, on this conflict so effectively when before this the US government has done far worse for many years, especially in Iraq, a country with whom they don’t share a border and wasn’t a direct threat. But the hipocrisy doesn’t end or start with Iraq, there are too many conflicts where the Western powers were allowed to commit human rights crimes without suffering any sanctions or suffering any kind of repercussion by the so called “leaders of the free world”, the Guantanamo prison being one of many examples. There have been worse conflicts and ethnic cleansing in our own continent that didn’t receive even half the attention.

    • Can I comment “idiot” without it being deleted? I do not “close ranks” with anyone, I do my own thinking based on my experience with working with Russian speaking Ukrainians for years. I repeat, “IDIOT”.

  • Ramaphosa is hopelessly naive if he thinks that doing these kind of deals with the devil won’t have any consequences. The western power base in today’s global geopolitical landscape is well and truly set against the murderous Putin regime and they won’t forget this treachery, even from a relative minnow like SA. The tragedy is that Squirrel’s total lack of moral backbone and decency tars all South Africans with same international pariah status brush. Again.

    • 200% David. What is interesting to me is there are a bunch of people now caught in a conundrum. They want to support putin but how do they support putin while they maintain their entrenched anti CR prose. Such is the problem with moral ambiguity I suppose…

  • Well after Farmgate, it’s no surprise that Cyril is keen to buy grain from Russia that it has stolen from Ukraine. Cyril and Putin are two peas in a pod, both run criminal enterprises!

  • No surprises here. A president who heads a dying party and appears to have many skeletons in his cupboard, will do whatever necessary to survive. The sooner SAcans start engaging to change the trajectory the country is on, the better.

  • Yet many seem content to continue buying oil from Saudi Arabia despite their atrocities during the Yemen War. Dealing with the devil to protect national interests (in our case cheap grain) is not new. Wake up people!

    Even so, given how people feel about the war, it might have been smarter to keep interactions with Putin private.

  • South Africa buys most of its oil from Saudi Arabia a despotic regime that sponsors Islamic extremists world wide No one seems to have a problem with this !

  • Next up, to round off a truly spineless response to putin’s invasion of a democratic neighbor that voted 90% NOT to be part of mother russia : we will be buying Urals oil soon at the 35% discount, if we are not already. Don’t expect relief at the pump from these war profits, our fuel prices are regulated.

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