New US Bill calls on the Biden administration to review America’s relations with SA
The bill would also require the Administration to examine whether SA is undermining US security and foreign policy interests.
Legislation has been introduced in the US House of Representatives which would require the US Administration to conduct a full review of US relations with South Africa because Pretoria is supposedly siding with America’s adversaries, Hamas. Russia and China.
(The legislative action was first reported on by Mail & Guardian -Ed)
If passed, the “U.S.- South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act” would also require the Administration to report to Congress “explicitly stating whether South Africa has engaged in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests.”
Republican John James and Democrat Jared Moscowitz introduced the bill on Wednesday. The bill says that in contrast to its stated non-alignment, the ANC government has been siding with “malign actors”, building military and political ties with Russia and China and supporting Hamas , designated by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a known proxy of Iran.
These ties undermine America’s national security and foreign policy interests and “threaten our way of life,” the bill says.
The bill said “ it is in the national security interest of the United States to deter strategic political and security cooperation and information sharing with the PRC and the Russian Federation, particularly any form of cooperation that may aid or abet Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine or its international standing or influence.”
The document is not quite clear about how US security and foreign policy interests have been undermined, though it does suggest that America’s relations with SA are distracting it from seeking its own energy security.
The bill said that no later than 30 days after enactment of the bill – if it passed by both the House and the Senate – the President should deliver to Congress and publicly release “an unclassified determination explicitly stating whether South Africa has engaged in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests.”
This wording reflects the wording of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) which provides preferential access to the US market for the exports of eligible African countries, including South Africa.
A country can be deemed ineligible if it undermines US national security or foreign policy interests. Democratic Party Senator Chris Coons has introduced a bill that would require the Administration to hold an “out of cycle” review this year on whether South Africa should remain an Agoa beneficiary.
The new bill introduced this week would also require the President and his ministers, agencies and officials to conduct a comprehensive review of the bilateral relationship between the US and SA and to submit a report on its findings to Congress no later than 120 days after the enactment of the bill.
The bill lists many actions and statements by SA which it says show the ANC government is siding with Hamas, Russia and China.
It said after Hamas’ “unprovoked and unprecedented horrendous attack on Israel on October 7, 2023” when it killed and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis, members of the South African Government and leaders of the ANC had delivered “a variety of antisemitic and anti-Israel-related statements and actions.”
These included the statement of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation on the day of the attack, which urged Israel’s restraint in response to the attack and implicitly blamed Israel for provoking the attack through “continued illegal occupation of Palestine land, continued settlement expansion, desecration of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Christian holy sites, and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.”
As further evidence of the ANC government’s alleged siding with Hamas, the bill cites International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor’s phone call with Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh on 17 October 17; her visit to Iran—“which is actively funding Hamas” – on 22 October 2023, to meet President Ebrahim Raisi ; Pandor’s call on 7 November, 2023 for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with war crimes; Pretoria’s request to the ICC on 17 November 2023, to investigates war crimes in Palestinian territories; and SA’s “politically motivated” charge of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice on 29 December 2023.
As evidence of Pretoria’s “robust relationship” with Russia, the bill cites Pretoria; allowing the United States-sanctioned Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, to dock and transfer arms at Simons Town naval base in December 2022; hosting offshore naval exercises with Russia and China in February 2023; reneging on its initial call for Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine; and “dispatching multiple high-level official delegations to Russia to further political, intelligence, and military cooperation.”
And the bill said that the SA government and ANC were undermining SA’s democratic constitutional system of governance, through ongoing cooperation with China.
This included recruiting former United States and NATO fighter pilots to train Chinese military pilots at the Test Flying Academy of South Africa; hosting six Chinese government backed Confucius Institutes which it said were an important part of the Chinese Community Party’s (CCP) external propaganda structure; and participation in a political training school opened in Tanzania funded by the Chinese Communist Party “where it trains political members of the ruling liberation movements in six Southern African countries.”
It also cited the acceptance in SA’s media and technology sectors of Chinese state linked firms that the United States has restricted due to threats it believes they pose to national security, including Huawei Technologies, ZTE and Hikvision.
The bill said these companies “place South African sovereignty at risk and facilitate the CCP’s export of its model of digitally aided authoritarian governance underpinned by cyber controls, social monitoring, propaganda, and surveillance.”
The bill also cited the ANC government’s “substantially mismanaging” state resources and its often ineffective delivery of public services, “threatening the South African people and the South African economy…”
It mentions the energy crisis, the railway crisis- hindering the export of minerals- and the current cholera outbreak, which it said was the worst in 15 years. This was in part due to the government’s failure to deliver clean water to households.
The bill also cited “rampant state capture” during the Zuma years which it said continued to negatively impact economic development and living standards.
It is by no means clear that this bill would pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate to become law or even that the House would vote on it. Republicans, who are generally more hostile to South Africa control the House but Democrats control the Senate and would be more likely to reject the bill to avoid embarrassing and tying the hands of the Biden administration.
The bill nonetheless gives an indication of the trend of thinking about SA in Congress. DM