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To Russia with love — South Africa resumes plan to ditch International Criminal Court over ‘unfair treatment’

To Russia with love — South Africa resumes plan to ditch International Criminal Court over ‘unfair treatment’
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday in Pretoria said that the ANC and the government had made the decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has dropped a bombshell by announcing that the government has decided to push on and pull out of the ICC. 

Ramaphosa disclosed this at a press conference on Tuesday in Pretoria, saying that the ANC and the government had made the decision because of  “unfair treatment” by The Hague-based court. 

The decision appeared to have been made to pave the way for allowing Russian president Vladimir Putin to attend the BRICS summit in South Africa in August this year.

In March the ICC issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest for alleged complicity in the war crime of abducting Ukrainian children and deporting them to Russia. 

As an ICC member, South Africa would have been obliged to arrest Putin and surrender him to the court in The Hague if he came to South Africa. 

It is understood that the legal opinion that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) submitted to the Cabinet was that the government would have to arrest him — or risk violating both its treaty obligations to the ICC and South Africa’s own law which has domesticated the Rome Statute of the ICC. 

But it now appears that the ANC and the Cabinet have decided to ignore Dirco’s legal opinion and to defy both the ICC and South Africa’s own law.

Because, as 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, then Sudanese President Omar al Bashir when he visited SA in 2015. 

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

Ramaphosa was asked to clarify SA’s position on the ICC at a joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Ninisto. 

He replied that the government had taken the decision that “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.”

Ramaphosa referred to what he said was commentary from Amnesty International that there had been unfair treatment. “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.” 

Ironically the legislation for SA to withdraw from the ICC after the Bashir affair had only just been withdrawn from Parliament – after the ANC decided at its December 2022 conference to reverse its decision of 2017 to withdraw from the court. 

The legislation to withdraw had been gathering dust in Parliament since it was tabled by former president Jacob Zuma’s administration in December 2017.

It was widely believed that the legislation was never carried forward because Ramaphosa did not believe it was wise to withdraw from the ICC.

Now South Africa’s growing alliance with Putin’s Russia appears to have persuaded the ANC and the government to reverse their position once again. 

The decision is likely to have major repercussions on SA’s relations with Western countries already alarmed by its growing relations with Russia. DM

This is a developing story and may be updated

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  • Fernando Moreira says:

    These are not good people

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    “Get the hammer dear, I have the final nail here.”
    So the ANC has been offended by unfair treatment. Quite ironic, considering how unfairly it has been treating its own citizens with impunity for 27 years.
    Let this decision sit well with these ‘leaders’ and their friends and their families. They have no idea of the volume of excrement about to be thrown at the giant fan. But I guess they are bargaining on load shedding to prevent the fan from turning.

  • Simon Winde says:

    How on earth did we not learn from the Bashir saga?

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The wimp Ramaphosa wants to prove to the world that he is able to make decisions.

  • Chris Leff says:

    These guys just blunder onwards from one disaster to the next. They are completely disconnected from reality. Ethics do not feature in their vocabularly. So sad to be led by an incompetent bunch of morons.

  • Peter Slingsby says:

    A disgusting and shameful day for our beloved country. Pity the poor of this country – they’re about to get poorer.

  • Jeremy Collins says:

    Just in case anybody was wondering which way the wind is blowing. Better brush up on your Russian, or start stockpiling Javelins.

  • Clare Yeowell says:

    Putin doesn’t give a damn about the comrades in the ANC or South Africa….when are they going to wake up and realise that they are being used as a gateway into Africa?

  • Jon Quirk says:

    There will be a massive bill thrown by Africa at “the West”for reparations apropos slavery; and it will not matter one jot that throughout the 19th century, very few Europeans ventured into Africa beyond the immediate coast and various Tribal Chiefs were the main slave traders, carting their own peoples, and even more particularly neighbouring tribes peoples, to the various slave entrepôts, and that it was European, particularly British abhorrence that ended this milleniums-old practice, it will all be thrown into the pot of unfair”treatment for Africa and Africans.

    Where will it end? Reparations for all the “down-trodden”ordinary Europeans, ill-treated by their Kings through the centuries? Reparations for women, gay-people, the mentally-challenged and anyone else with a chip on their shoulder?

    Africa as a whole will likely line up with a begging bowl, because it is hard to think of any African country without severe question marks against their legitimacy and integrity …

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      It seems to me that SA is set to withdraw its decision to withdraw AGAIN after the ANC has been voted out of power next year. Because while it was the easy decision for the ANC to try to avoid embarrassment, it is going to be SA whose credibility is going to take a knock, AND once this decision is official, it is definitely going to be taken to the Constitutional Court, AND that parliamentary process is probably going to last until after the 2024 election, ANC even if the ANC manages to push it through parliament before the election, the withdrawal is then not going to be done before the election. It just shows what an embarrassment the ANC has become to SA. Let us hope that SA gets a proper State President, that can do what the country (not a political party) wants from it, after the 2024 elections.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    I’m beginning to think that the Ramaphosa presidency is going be worse for the country than Zuma’s criminal administration. What he says is just rhetoric. The truth is that we are moving closer and closer to the authoritarian dictatorships for less and less gain.

    • Jennifer Hughes says:

      This is how I’m starting to feel too.

    • John Kotze says:

      Absolutely agree! The “western colonialists” kept the Russians away from this very valuable southern tip for a long time but their tenacity and “cold support” of the liberation movements seems as if it is going to pay off. Pity the poor South Africans who voted for “democracy” in ’94! Last chance ’24…..

  • Derek Jones says:

    Expected. What an idiot.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    I am bitterly disappointed in Ramaphosa. He has become a lapdog of probably the greatest criminal on Earth – Putin. I really believed that he had it in him to pull SA back from the horrors of Zuma but no. He threw a mountain of goodwill towards him away with his fairly to provide the country with leadership.

    • Mark Gibbons Gibbons says:

      Is South Africa permitted to wage war against Lesotho and reclaim it as land lost through foreign interference? If we, as South Africans agree, then we should welcome Putin with open arms and ditch all presences at civility, for won’t of a better word. I totally fail to understand the dilemma in Pretoria…

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Why would a criminal enterprise want to support a court after all? All pretense of respectability gone the ANC has laid it’s cards on the table. Yet again the welfare of the country comes second to the wishes of the party.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    Talk about being in hole and digging deeper. As a sailor I can tell you that when the skipper looks as panicky as RAMAPHOSA in that photo, it’s time for the crew to worry.

  • Anthony Burman says:

    Well what fun. I was attacked and mugged while cycling last night; this makes it two days in a row.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    What absolute rubbish that The Hague is unfair. that is just an excuse to justify the ANC’s cowardice as they have so aptly shown in their Ukraine stand or stand off and other lack of acting on the State capture Commission. the whole lot of them are cowards and thieves. now they are playing the coalition games because they will be wiped out come 2024.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    If you the Government cannot be ethical or moral, at least be pragmatic and have a look at the trade figures! Putin is not worth it and will never pay you back for the trouble. Putin is only worried about Putin and frightened to death to lose power.

  • Pet Bug says:

    O dear, I think I might well have dropped a Poplak with previous comment.
    I’m sorry DM!

    Just furious with how the ANC is burning my, our, bridge to a constitutional democracy.

  • Paul Hjul says:

    The ANC wants the country to be placed under crippling sanctions. Maybe there is some nostalgia in the organization for the old days.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    Another self-created disaster from the government, which will create even more severe issues for the country to deal with, and will severely damage South Africa’s international standing and economic interests, by tying the country to autocratic regimes. Without fail, the government inevitably acts contrary to the country’s interests, and rather in the interests of the ANC and cadres, and misguided idelology. The country is failing as a result.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Can’t wait to get rid of the ANC forever. There is not one single positive attribute which we will miss. It’s time.

  • Luan Sml says:

    I am ashamed of our shameful President….and the shameless party he represents!

  • Pet Bug says:

    I’m furious.

    “Whatever you do for me but without me, you do against me”.
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Brad McWalter says:

    I will never know what it means to be a patriot.

  • Peter Wanliss says:

    Ironic that the ANC is engaging with Russia to advance “the recalibration of the global order to reverse the consequences of neo-colonialism and the previously prevailing unipolar world”.
    If a colony is a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country, then what do we make of the 21 sovereign republics that entered into a federation with Russia in 1992 but since 2017 (in which the last bi-lateral treaties were abolished) have been completely controlled from Moscow. And of course, the integration of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, beginning in 2015 and ending in 2016 with Crimea ceasing to be a separate federal district, followed Russian migration into Crimea.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Behaving, thinking and acting like a criminal himself, doesn’t help!
    At least our government, through this action, is revealing itself for what it really is – a member of a criminal cartel that behaves with impunity without ethics and morals so long as self-interest prevails!

  • Matsobane Monama says:

    “The decision APPEARED to have been made to pave the way for allowing Russian President Vlad Putin to attend the BRICS summit in SA in August this year”. I did English as my 3rd language @ school but appears means you are not sure.
    CR is an intelligent man, he knows the legal implications and time it will take to withdraw our country from ICC. In the end it had to come: Major Repercussions on SA’s relations with Western countries.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see!!
    Hasten the day that the ANC is no more – they have failed their founders and their country.
    Shame on them.

  • Deon Rademeyer says:

    The international world should stop supporting and financing South Africa, SA has clearly shown which side they’re on!!
    They have clearly showed the world that they’re incompetent, racist and corrupt!!
    They want to appease Putin, but the west and EU are the countries that actually finance SA by buying from us!!

  • Ivan van Heerden says:

    Viva Comrades!!!

    The ANC will stop at nothing to destroy this country as long as their Chinese and Russian paymasters guarantee their continued wealth.

    The founders of the ANC, it’s stalwarts and heroes that have passed on should be attached to dynamos, at the rate they are spinning we would have no loadshedding.

    Shame on you Cyril, you are a spineless weak little man

  • nhg says:

    all of this just goes to show that Cyril and his collective Government( cronies!!) are going more and more loopy every passing day!
    how ANY sane person could even think of voting ANC next year is simply beyond me!!

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    What a Wally CR has turned out to be. Someone has him by the balls because they’re nowhere to be found – must be stuffed into a sofa with the rest of his junk!

  • Neil Parker says:

    If , Mr President, you are trying to tell us that President Putin has been “unfairly treated” , then please explain to us what it is that you plainly do not understand about the illegality of one country invading another. About indiscriminate bombing of civilian tagets ? About butchering people in their own homes ? And, and , and … If somebody came here and invaded/bombed Johannesburg or Pretoria , are you going to stand on the sideline and say in your mielie-mouthed way: “the parties must negotiate” ?? Your government has already (thanks to your predecessor) completely destroyed democracy in Zimbabwe and now evidently thinks it can support those who would do the same in Ukraine. We had such hopes for you but now we see your true colours. And we feel betrayed. Deeply so When a woman is raped or somebody is murdered , you cannot stand back and expect “negotiation”. Oh for heaven’s sake , use your brains and also find something else a bit lower down!

  • Helen Lachenicht says:

    Lots of complaining about the situation but no potential solutions. If I remember/understand correctly it was a boycot that brought the Apartheid government to its knees. We definitely need to get active, we helped unseat Zuma, I am sure someone cleverer than me has some viable ideas?

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