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Opinionista

Our commitment to Agoa is not just for trade, but also standing up for what is right

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Alan Winde is Western Cape Premier.

There is a very real risk of South Africa being excluded from Agoa due to Pretoria’s illogical, reckless and perplexing affinity towards Russia, and their position on the invasion of a sovereign nation, Ukraine.

I recently led a Western Cape government (WCG) delegation to the US. While the trip had multiple intentions – including bolstering investment which saw us meet with potential private sector investors working in energy and film – the overarching priority was to meet US legislators to put forward our reasons that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) should be reauthorised, with our country remaining part of the trade agreement.

As per South Africa’s Constitution, Schedule 4, I share the responsibility with the national government to engage other countries on trade and tourism. I will therefore do everything I can to secure our trade agreements which are crucial for job creation and foreign direct investment for our province as part of South Africa.

And I will also fight as the premier of this province for South Africa to fulfil its obligations as a constitutional democracy that upholds the rule of law.

There is a very real risk of South Africa being excluded from Agoa due to Pretoria’s illogical, reckless and perplexing affinity towards Russia, and their position on the invasion of a sovereign nation, Ukraine.

At every meeting on Capitol Hill, the message was very clear: Washington is growing increasingly concerned. This was further evidenced by a letter signed by a group of US legislators calling for the upcoming Agoa summit to be moved to another African country

Our most important reasons for embarking on this visit were jobs, economic growth and ultimately the well-being and dignity of our citizens. But Agoa is not just about trade, it is also about values.

Economically it makes no sense to kowtow to Russia and isolate ourselves from far more important trade partners. But also, ideologically our position is untenable.

It requires that sub-Saharan countries that are part of Agoa entrench economic policies that reduce poverty, increase the availability of healthcare and education opportunities, and establish a system to combat corruption.

These are values that I fully support because they demonstrate that trade does not happen in a vacuum, it requires us to think about the societal and political environment in which trade happens.

Read more in Daily Maverick: African Peace Mission seemed to have little impact on Russia, Ukraine conflict resolution

The position of the national government regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unacceptable. Thousands of lives needlessly lost in a futile war, the impact of which is being felt far beyond the violated borders of Ukraine.

My government and I stand on the side of free trade, a flourishing society and economy and respect for the rule of law.

It was reported in 2021 that South Africa’s exports to and imports from Russia, and some of its allies, amounted to about R15.7-billion. Compare this with Nato nations whose trade with our country stands at more than R1-trillion.

Lest one day we forget: With Putin’s Russia, South Africa is committing a historic mistake

In 2022, Russia was South Africa’s 53rd-largest export destination market. In stark contrast, the EU was the Western Cape’s largest export partner in 2021. The EU also accounted for 34.15% of inward foreign direct investment projects into the Western Cape in 2022.

The EU, the world’s biggest economic bloc, accounts for 22% of South Africa’s exports. The US accounts for 9% and the UK 7%. Russia accounts for just 0.23% of our country’s exports.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tears in Heaven: Why everything Ramaphosa & Putin touch ends in a gigantic farce

Russian investments in South Africa stand at $5-million, according to the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, our country’s biggest direct investors are the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, the US and Germany at $136-billion between them.

Economically it makes no sense to kowtow to Russia and isolate ourselves from far more important trade partners. But also, ideologically our position is untenable.

Political miracle in peril

South Africa has for years been held up as the country that beat the odds. While transitioning from an oppressive, discriminatory system led by despots and supremacists, South Africans went to the ballot box and voted for our democratic future. Now our country has a shining example of a Constitution embodying our values of human rights and the rule of law, but we risk destroying our political miracle with the national government’s current behaviour.

Unfortunately, it is not just in the international arena where the national government is not showing its commitment to our constitutional values and rule of law.

Recently, marking the one-year anniversary of the release of the report from the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo raised his concerns that the state could once again be captured and that Parliament would not be able to stop this plundering.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ask us anything about… the African Peace Mission to Ukraine and Russia

Why? Because not nearly enough has been done to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms, and key institutions, such as the National Prosecuting Authority, have not brought to book the companies, businesspeople and politicians who ransacked the state’s coffers.

In stark contrast, we in the Western Cape will do everything we can to uphold the rule of law and fight for economic prosperity for our residents.

The Western Cape government will not stand idly by in the face of morally reprehensible actions carried out by the Kremlin and the national government’s seemingly unflinching devotion to this self-destructive behaviour.

I will fight for our citizens, for jobs, our economy, and to secure the trade relations we have worked so hard for.

I will fight to see those who commit crime prosecuted and in jail. I will do that here in the Western Cape, in South Africa, and abroad according to our constitutional mandate. DM

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  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Well done Alan!! We, The People of the Western Province support you! The thinking People of South Africa support you.

    Vote DA for South African success.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Maybe you’d gain more traction if you stopped fighting (when will SA politicians stop being so patriarchal/ militaristic?) and started leading (imagining and working SA into another paradigm).

    • Pieter Badenhorst says:

      If truth be told, the DA in the Western Cape have been leading by example for some time now. At both provincial and local government level the Western Cape is significantly better run than any other province.

      • Gerrie Pretorius says:

        Exactly! What more do the voters want? Just open your eyes and notice the difference between governance in the Western Cape and rule and steal and feed at the trough by the anc in the rest of the country.

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