Was he snubbed? Ramaphosa fails to crack the nod for G7 summit in Japan
President Cyril Ramaphosa was all geared up and ready to go to the G7 summit in Japan next month, as he has attended every G7 summit since becoming President in 2018. Only, this time the invitation did not arrive.
Unlike Canada, France, the UK and Germany, which had hosted President Cyril Ramaphosa as an honoured guest at their G7 summits in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, respectively, Japan did not invite him to next month’s G7 summit in Hiroshima.
Though some diplomats are trying to explain that this year’s summit is different because the other G7 hosts are countries more interested in Africa, while Japan is more focused on its own Asian region, clearly something is amiss in South African-Japanese relations.
It may have something to do with the fact that South Africa declined to attend Japan’s own big Ticad summit with African leaders in Tunisia last year. South Africa had raised concerns about Morocco’s participation at Ticad in line with its stance to support the Sahrawi people in their long-running territorial dispute with Morocco over the ownership of Western Sahara. When South Africa received no response from Japan about its complaint, South Africa decided not to attend the summit as a means of protest, sources told Daily Maverick.
But could it also be related to South Africa’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has increasingly irked Western and like-minded countries?
Read more in Daily Maverick: Dangerous liaisons: SA’s Russian roulette jeopardises trade agreements with US and other Western nations
Certainly, Tokyo’s decision not to invite a South African president to a G7 summit for the first time in many years has taken the South African government by surprise.
The President’s team was certainly under the impression that he would be invited to the summit and had pencilled the event into Ramaphosa’s busy schedule. The Presidency went as far as inviting journalists to cover the summit. However, last week the chief of staff in the Presidency dropped a bomb when he informed the communications team that Ramaphosa had not been invited after all.
That is when they discovered that Tokyo had decided instead to invite only Azali Assoumani, who is the chairperson of the African Union and the president of Comoros, to represent Africa.
People close to Ramaphosa have told Daily Maverick that he is undeterred by the latest developments and is determined to stay in the country and work on domestic problems which include the power crisis.
International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor also seemed surprised. She said on Wednesday that Japan’s decision not to invite South Africa to the G7 summit was “unusual.” She was speaking following a meeting with Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt.
“What I am aware of is that there was a meeting of [G7] ministers but the summit has not happened as yet, so I do not know whether President Ramaphosa will be attending the summit. With respect to the ministers’ meeting, South Africa was not invited.
“Japan chose to invite the African Union chair, so a minister from Comoros came to the meeting. This was rather unusual as South Africa is always invited to G7 meetings, but of course, the host chooses what they do, we cannot force ourselves on them,” said Pandor.
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said: “The President is not feeling snubbed. The host made a decision to reconfigure Africa’s participation to have the AU chair as the main participant from Africa. It is the host’s prerogative, [one] that the President respects.”
The Japanese embassy in SA explained to Daily Maverick that Ramaphosa had not been invited because: “Countries selected for outreach are those beyond G7, centred in the Global South, playing an active and significant role in global peace, stability and economic order or those who are showing a strong motivation to do so.
“Adding to this, as G7 is held in Asia, the focus was also put on to the Indo-Pacific region.” DM