South Africa


President Ramaphosa ‘erroneously’ announces SA’s withdrawal from International Criminal Court

President Ramaphosa ‘erroneously’ announces SA’s withdrawal from International Criminal Court
Illustrative image | Russian President Vladimir Putin greets South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during the welcoming ceremony at the Russia-Africa Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, on 23 October 2019. (Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images) | The International Criminal Court on 26 June 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sydney Seshibedi) | Member nation flags during the 11th BRICS leaders' summit at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, 14 November 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Pavel Golovkin)

After the announcement, the Helen Suzman Foundation’s Nicole Fritz tweeted: ‘Hope whoever briefed the President gives him a fulsome apology. Diplomatic crises resulting from failure to read the text properly!!’

After causing an uproar by announcing that South Africa was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement late on Tuesday that his earlier announcement was wrong and that South Africa would remain in the court. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: To Russia with love — South Africa resumes plan to ditch International Criminal Court over ‘unfair treatment’

At an earlier joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said the government had decided, “It’s prudent that South Africa should pull out of the ICC largely because of the manner in which the ICC has been dealing with these types of problems.”

This referred to what he called unfair treatment of countries by the ICC — a view which he said had also been taken by Amnesty International.

“And our view is that we would like this matter of unfair treatment to be properly discussed. But in the meantime, the governing party has decided once again that we should pull out. So, that will be a matter that will be taken forward.” 

Ramaphosa’s reference to the “governing party” having decided to withdraw from the ICC gave the impression that the ANC had made the decision at its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the weekend. But the NEC had in fact reiterated its decision of last December to rescind its 2017 decision to withdraw from the ICC. 

Several hours later, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, issued a statement saying: “The Presidency wishes to clarify that South Africa remains a signatory to the Rome Statute and will continue to campaign for equal and consistent application of international law.

“This clarification follows an error in a comment made during a media briefing held by the governing African National Congress (ANC) on South Africa’s status with regard to the ICC. Regrettably, the President erroneously affirmed a similar position during a media session today.

“South Africa remains a signatory to the ICC in line with a resolution of the 55th National Conference of the ANC — held in December 2022 — to rescind an earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC.

“The December resolution was reaffirmed at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC during the weekend of 21 to 24 April 2023. The NEC had also reflected on the potential withdrawal from the ICC as an option that would arise as a measure of last resort in the absence of legal options that would result in fairness and consistency in the administration of international law,” the statement said.

The NEC also issued a clarifying statement late on Tuesday, saying “an unintended impression may have been created that a categorical decision for an immediate withdrawal had been taken. This is not so.” 

The prospect of Putin’s visit 

Behind all this was the prospect of Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting South Africa in August to attend the BRICS summit. If he did, South Africa as an ICC member would have to arrest him as the ICC has issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Ukraine. South Africa is seeking a way out of that dilemma. 

The NEC statement issued on Tuesday night said that the ANC meeting had discussed options to amend the South Africa legislation which domesticates the Rome Statute of the ICC. In effect, this would mean that the ICC would not be able to demand that South Africa arrest and surrender Putin as a sitting head of state. Only if these efforts to amend the legislation failed, would it contemplate withdrawal, the NEC said.

So, its statement does indicate that the ANC and the government are still trying to find ways for Putin to attend the summit, whereas it is believed that a legal opinion that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has submitted to Cabinet states that SA would have to arrest Putin if he comes to the country — and so he should be advised not to come here. 

Helen Suzman Foundation director Nicole Fritz told Daily Maverick it is legally impossible for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC before the BRICS conference in August. 

She noted that ICC rules stipulate that an ICC member country remains a member for 12 months after notification of withdrawal. She also noted that withdrawal would require a lengthy parliamentary process — as South Africa’s courts made clear after the government tried to withdraw from the ICC in the wake of the fiasco of failing to arrest another ICC fugitive, the then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited SA in 2015. 

Fritz said that South African courts had taken a very strong position at that time on the failure of the government to comply with SA’s ICC Implementation Act and would not countenance any violation of the act, which would be likely to happen if SA allowed Putin to visit SA and ignored an ICC request to arrest him. 

Another legal expert, who did not want to be named, said that South Africa would have no excuse for allowing Putin to visit SA and not arresting him as the ICC itself and SA’s high court and Supreme Court of Appeal had made these responsibilities absolutely clear when SA failed to arrest Bashir. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The real problem behind South Africa’s refusal to arrest al-Bashir 

Fritz suggested that Ramaphosa may have been badly briefed about any NEC decision on the ICC. She tweeted the NEC statement about rescinding the 2017 decision and commented: “Looks like things got lost in translation. The ANC Executive Committee Meeting noted that ‘the ANC & the SA govt must rescind the withdrawal from the ICC Court’. Not withdraw from the ICC.”

Fritz added: “Hope whoever briefed the President gives him a fulsome apology. Diplomatic crises resulting from failure to read the text properly!!” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    No one at the steering wheel, the will of the people and and that of the “serving” party is clearly disconnected. Apears that there will be no hope for ZA while the current numbnuts think they are in power.

  • Auke Van Der Meulen Van Der Meulen says:

    Reflexion of how everything is run in SA by gov. Idiots at the helm!

    • Paul Hjul says:

      I think the ANC received a briefing as to the sanctions package that will befall them if the path laid out was followed. The sooner friends of South Africa realize that its time to treat ANC officials as tinpot dictators and impose travel restrictions and bring in targeted sanctions the better.

      • andrea96 says:

        Totally agree. Pick the top 100 anc dreck, and sanction them personally until the anc-led unfortunate country is placed under proper government.

  • Francois Smith says:

    Will one of the legal people please help me: If Putin comes to South Africa and is allowed free pass, in other words, he is not arrested, who in South Africa must be held accountable? Is it Squirrel Ramaphosa, The Mad Hatter Cele, Aron Let the Zimmers go Home Motswaledi or the poor border guard? Now if the Russian jet with Putin on board lands in SA with the red mat rolled open for him, is it in this case the Minister of Defense that will be in the spotlight? Ie, who must be arrested for at least contempt of court?

  • Wilhelm Boshoff says:

    Not only spineless, but also clueless. SA Inc is not in safe hands.

  • Chris Skinner says:

    What an embarrassment for all Saffers.

  • Derek Jones says:

    There does seem to be some disagreement between Amnesty International and the ICC over who to prosecute as funds are limited. They chose to concentrate on the crimes in Ukraine, so one could hardly blame them. Fact is the ANC has no idea what they are doing or even when they can or cannot do it.

  • Michael Schaefer says:

    Astounding how the ANC and spineless puppet squirrel continue to lower the bar. God help us 🙏

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Is our pres actually just a bot that sometimes gets fed the wrong content? How do you mistakenly announce something as serious as this?!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      He is led by Artificial Intelligence … with the emphasis on ‘artificial’ … with no ‘art’ in it whatsoever!
      What intrigues me is how a ‘legal expert’ with an opinion on this matter wishes not to have his name mentioned ! That DM even entertained this opinion (as droll and tedious as it was) is beyond comprehension ! Fritz is bending over backwards (nay becoming a contortionist) to be ‘generous’ in her view of this granddaddy of F…U.. by a clueless and ethics bereft ANC !

  • Sue Hutchings says:

    South Africa is surely the laughing stock of the world right now. I’m so embarrassed to be South African.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    The Three Stooges in fool swing

  • Alley Cat says:

    And the circus continues! Only problem, most circuses have a ring master but we don’t even have that. The numerous clowns are running the circus, bumping into each other and the RET audience is in control.
    This is so embarrassing. When news broke of the “withdrawal” my social media lit up with disbelieving and indignant comments from friends and family abroad.
    Sheer incompetence!!!

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Headless chickens comes to mind.
    In any event the Kremlin has indicated Putin will not be daring to leave Russis. “He will attend, even if remotely”.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Wow! Who indeed is the puppeteer controlling our President and giving him the party line he is to read out?

    If this volte Face is real and properly confirmed, it makes even clearer the faultiness splitting the ANC in two; so who is the Puppeteer, and why do the Squirrelites allow him/her such unfettered access to manage the Nation’s critical discourses.

    Clearly Cyril is not calling the shots – so who is?

    • blingtofling says:

      Who is calling the shots is also what I would like to know! Are the script writers for the speeches and statements in control? Or just totally incompetant like the rest of them? Or is the panic of things spinning out of control for the ANC, and every minister just singing their own tune to whatever allegence they support, finally surfaced internationally! I don’t think even the ANC allies over the seas know whats going on anymore.

  • Peter Doble says:

    Dontyajustluvem? This one will go down in history like his US counterpart Prez Ford, Cyril will be remembered as that guy who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The inmates are running the asylum.

  • Teresa K says:

    It really is astounding, embarrassing and downright mortifying that we have a truly idiot and corrupt government at the helm, and not a single opposition party that South Africans are willing to vote for to unseat this hideous clown show. I love my country, but I truly despise the government.

  • Yet another classic example of ANC bungling at the highest levels

  • André Pelser says:

    Will vacuous statements by the president Ramaphosa, his cabinet and ANC leaders and the conflation of party and state never end? Meetings by kleptocratic ANC committees to resolve the countless problems of government do not inspire any confidence. There is more to government than a single party. Investors, local and foreign, will not put their capital in a country ruled by this bumbling, thieving cabal.

  • Philip Armstrong says:

    Just when you think it cannot get any worse, CR and his bunch of idiots easily prove us wrong. The debacle with the so-called Eskom exemption, then the Eskom state of disaster proclamation, and now this. Most people would be ashamed and try to do better, but NOT this crowd of buffoons.

  • Donald Moore says:

    On the Radio I heard Fikile Mbalula saying that SA will withdraw from the Rome Statute. Did he give the wrong wording also to his president? If my understanding is correct one of the main objects of the Rome Statute is to protect against the abuse of human rights in instances where a country is either unwilling or unable to take the necessary steps against a person for the abuse of human rights. In the same statement Fikile Mbalula stated that Uganda was out of step for passing an homophobic law. Is Fikile Mbalula aware that major members of BRICS have seriously homophobic laws? I believe that Russia is one. A word of condemnation of Russia on this score by the ANC is called for in the name of consistency.

  • friendleigh2 says:

    Why are we surprised? This is the same man who was deputy president during the “lost ” nine years. What did he do? Lock himself in his office and read newspapers all day?

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    What an extreme and utter disgrace!!! Allowing a mass-murderer and an evil, monstrous and vile thug with so much innocent blood on his wicked hands to come to this country, rolling out the red carpet and lavishly entertaining him is disgusting beyond belief!! The spineless, duplicitous, treasonous and hypocritical Cyril, devoid of any morals, integrity and common decency along with his hideous anc government should be disposed of, once and for all. I urge all the NGO’s, decent media, law entities to rise and oppose this. As for the people, we should do what we did to oust Zuma – mass public protests. I would certainly join in and I know many others would as well.

  • Annemarie van Wyk says:

    It should be noted that the USA is also not part of the ICC. Why one can only guess.

  • Derek Jones says:

    Wait Mbalula is getting in on the clown act. More fun to follow.

  • Rod Gush says:

    I see the ANC is now able to predict the future – their statement refers to an NEC meeting in 2025. Motormouth Fikile is breaking new ground!!

  • Tai Chesselet says:

    This is very alarming, does the President just read any announcement that is put before him? Is he present and aware? Is he just acting the part? Is he so detached from his job that he cannot get something as serious as this right?

  • Ruth Kellow says:

    If South Africa would have arrested Bashir in 2015 then maybe that could have been a sign for better governance in general and Sudan would not be in this situation today. Looks like the government has drifted away from certain value systems.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Plan B for Putin is he arrives in CT on board MY Noord , hiding around in the islands close by .

  • Confucious Says says:

    Typical! Statement followed by retraction! Idiots!

  • Paul Mathias says:

    If we are confused/ignorant/ quavering about our own position on this and equally important matters while we continue to bend the knee for Russia (wasn’t Ukraine part of the USSR that supported the struggle?) it’s little wonder that we are persona non grata on the international stage.

    Not invited to the G7 Summit, not regarded by the EU as important enough to add to the four countries they are actively seeking to sway from a pro Russian position, namely Chile, Brazil, Nigeria and Kazakhstan. Only the beginning of our isolation I’m afraid.

  • Mark Gory Gory says:

    And he couldn’t query the text? Just a parrot reading it out? And this is the man in “charge”. Heaven help us

    • Claerwen Howie says:

      When are those of us who’re appalled by the lunacy of those supposedly leading this country going to take to the streets?
      And if that grotesque Putin is allowed in we’ll need to march with some urgency.

  • Lackson Qoto says:

    SA has every reason to withdraw from the ICC. The ICC is too political and aims to “keep African countries counties compliant to the dictates of the West and its allies”. African countries become the sacrificial lambs in the ICC’s struggle for global legitimation. So far, every convicted person has been African! Yet there are equally if not more repulsive atrocities elsewhere in the world. Even the US does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC!

    • Oblivious Traveler says:

      The attrocities committed by those indicted by the ICC are horrendous. It seems to me that all those who only look at the origen of the indicted care less about the atrocities that have been commited against the victims of their alledged crimes: murder, rape, genocide, etc. In these cases the victims were mostly all Africans. Seems to me that those critical of the ICC really think that “black lives do not matter”.

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    Whether SA stays in the ICC or not will make no difference to the anc. Putin will not be arrested – and then what? Will cr or any other anc government cadre be sent to jail? Will the anc be sentenced to being unfit to govern? What can any court in the world do to correct the failure to adhere to ICC rules? SA is a joke!

  • Oblivious Traveler says:

    I just cannot stop laughing out loud!

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Mr President, you are making a fool out of yourself and of all the ones surrounding you.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Lackson – before talking nonsense, get your facts straight! Is this just another typical myopic and racist comment or being plainly misinformed? Milosevic from Serbia, who definitely wasn’t African, but very white was convicted and jailed for crimes against humanity. He happened to die in jail and here’s great hope that the same, at the very least, will happen to Putin.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    My first reaction was to look around for that imposter fellow they had interpreting for deaf people at the world cup. Had he snuck in AGAIN? But no, it’s real. Ramaphosa read it out like he reads everything else out without batting an eyelid. Another embarrassment.

  • Trevor Tutu says:

    C’mon SAffers you know that this government is completely useless.

    If it can’t provide electricity, what makes you think that it will understand a theoretical construct like the “Rule of Law”?

    The ANC honestly believes that the law is whatever they might think at that particular moment

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    CR is a coward, weak and spineless. ICC must go and arrest the real proven warmongers in the US and Europe. Wikileaks Julian Assange is still languishing in a British jail and driven to insanity for exposing this evil so- called democrats.

  • Jack Rollens says:

    So very sad. South Africa had a huge opportunity to become a shining star in Africa. A country of such possibilities. A country of so many resources, and a country of millions of hard working citizens.

    South Africa has become just another failed state. Corruption that starts and goes through the entire government. Destruction of one of the most important and diverse ecosystems in the world. Wildlife like no other being slaughtered and many species going extinct because of greed.

    So very sad

  • Dusty Ricketts says:

    A quote from this article:
    “South Africa remains a signatory to the ICC in line with a resolution of the 55th National Conference of the ANC-held in December2022-to rescind an earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC.
    “The December resolution was reaffirmed at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC during the weekend 0f 21 to 24 April 2023. Unquote….
    If this was discussed at the NEC meeting during the weekend 21-24 April and CR was present at this meeting, then surely when he was reading the message at his press conference on the 25th April (with the Finnish President present) he should have realized there and then that the message he was reading to the world was not what was decided at the NEC meeting a few hours earlier. Or was he sleeping when this item was raised and confirmed (“The December resolution was reaffirmed at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC during the weekend of 21 to 24 April 2023.) at the NEC meeting?
    How is it possible to say YES to a resolution to remain in the ICC but when you read it at the press meeting the next day your response is NO to remain in the ICC????? Makes one wonder!!

  • Thabang M says:

    Usually Presidents serving last term are cautious and sensitive to their legacy. Not in South Africa, shamelessness is a badge of honor. I truly hope ANC get less than 40% (50% is a guaranteed unachievable). This will lead to things in my view: a move towards decentralised government and consequently a decentralised political set-up so that no one person or party should determine the fate of an entire nation.

  • Charlie Rose says:

    Ramaphosa’s reference to Amnesty is a misrepresentation of their position regarding Putin. Twitter quote from Amnesty International on March 17th: The ICC’s arrest warrant against Putin a step towards justice for victims of war crimes in Ukraine.

  • Samantha Vandersteen says:

    If the President were a character in Game of Thrones he’d be known as “Cyril, the indecisive”

  • Riel Meynhardt says:

    From the outside, looking in, it is as if someone took a group of severely mentally handicapped individuals, beat all morals, honesty and decency out of them, and then said “OK now you go run SA”

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