Cabinet to consider moving BRICS Summit to China
Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting will see a proposal for South Africa to co-chair the BRICS Summit with China. At this stage, the summit is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg in August.
South Africa finds itself in a position where it has to seek an alternative country to host this year’s BRICS Summit. This is seen as a means of solving Pretoria’s quandary about Russian President Vladimir Putin entering the country to attend the summit.
Sources told Daily Maverick that the legal opinion sought by the BRICS-appointed technical team and presented to the interministerial committee (IMC) headed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile gave an adverse finding about Putin attending the summit.
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, “The IMC met yesterday and discussed the various permutations with respect to our hosting of the BRICS summit. They will present their recommendation to the President. An announcement will be made once the decision has been finalised.”
Daily Maverick understands that South Africa is already in talks with China about the possibility of sharing the host status this year.
Hosting the summit in China is under consideration because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The other option would be India, which is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute, but the only issue is that India is due to host the G20 summit this year.
The date for the BRICS Summit is likely to remain the same because all nations involved have planned for 22 to 24 August 2023.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Reserve Bank warns of a shock to the system over SA’s ‘neutral’ Russia-Ukraine stance
The decision comes after a precedent was set when the former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir — who, like Putin, had a warrant of arrest issued against him by the ICC — visited in June 2015.
The ICC ruled that South Africa had failed in its duty to arrest Al-Bashir when he was in the country.
This was after the South African government ignored an order by the High Court in Pretoria that prevented Bashir from leaving the country. The Sudanese president had been attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg.
Since the news of Putin’s arrest warrant started making headlines, South Africa has been trying to find ways to ensure the summit goes ahead as planned.
The ICC issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest in March, charging him with war crimes for alleged complicity in the abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia and their deportation to Russia.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa would be obliged to arrest Putin if he enters the country for the BRICS Summit. Pretoria has said it is trying to find a way of hosting him while still complying with its legal obligations to the ICC and to South Africa’s own ICC Implementation Act.
Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa grants Putin diplomatic immunity for BRICS Summit
There had already been murmurs of the summit being moved to another country during the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting in Cape Town last week.
At the time, Anil Sooklal, SA’s ambassador at large on Asia and BRICS, dismissed these claims.
“We have constantly stated that we have fixed the date for the summit as 22-24 August at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg and we are busy with preparations for the summit. That is our responsibility as the current chair of BRICS,” Sooklal said.
Last week, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor’s notice for the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act to be granted to all international officials at BRICS-related events was published in the Government Gazette. It was described by officials as a routine move.
However, this does not override the ICC warrant for Putin’s arrest. DM