Russian President Vladimir Putin was snubbed by President Cyril Ramaphosa over a future nuclear deal between Russia and South Africa at the recent BRICS summit held in Johannesburg. Ramaphosa blamed the struggling economy for his stance.
It is no secret that South Africa’s current president is neither a fan of BRICS nor of Russia.
Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma had a warm relationship with Putin and in 2014 spent six days in Russia, to recover from an attempt to poison him in which Ramaphosa was implicated.
Putin only arrived in South Africa two hours before the BRICS leaders’ summit was due to start, at 09:00 on Thursday. He did not make a grand entrance at the Convention Centre in Sandton where the media was waiting either, but was scuttled through the backdoor, sources told FWM.
In May already, an unnamed official told the South African weekly, the Mail&Guardian, that the “issue” of South Africa’s relationship with Russia once Ramaphosa became president “was not managed properly”.
“We tried to advise that it would not be a good idea to have a state visit with the Chinese and not the Russians, but that advice wasn’t taken,” the official said.
At a news conference after the summit Ramaphosa said he told Putin that South Africa was not ready for nuclear energy. “We are not ready for a nuclear deal.” He added: “I told him [Putin] we wanted to concentrate on renewable energy.”
The press attaché from the Russian embassy Alexander Kulyaev said, Putin held a bilateral meeting with Ramaphosa later on Thursday, before leaving later that day.
“South Africa is not yet at the point where it is able to sign on the dotted line,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko told Reuters after the meeting between Putin and Ramaphosa.
Hours earlier, one of the top six officials in South Africa’s ruling ANC, Treasurer General Paul Mashatile had also said nuclear would be “unaffordable”.
According to News24, neither Putin, nor Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Brazilian President Michel Temer attended the Brics Business Forum on Wednesday, something which an official said was really the essence of the BRICS gathering.
After the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) threatened Modi with arrest earlier this month on charges laid by the Muslim Lawyers Association related to “human rights violations” in Kashmir, the Indian leader’s presence at the BRICS meeting had hung in the balance.
Only when South Africa’s Energy Minister Jeff Radebe was dispatched to India to plead with Modi, did he change his mind. The NPA would not have been able to arrest or charge Modi anyway, as he is protected by the Geneva Convention governing international summits.
The summit was not only marked by lacking diplomacy from South Africa, but generally marred by technical glitches and bad planning. “Do you know the chaos theory? This is it,” one official cited by the Sunday Times complained on Thursday. He confirmed that the participating embassies only received their programmes the day before. On Wednesday night, there was a three-hour delay for a cultural event at the BRICS summit. Other activities had to be cancelled too.
Ramaphosa responded: “The logistical arrangements were a little difficult for us to do.”
An event scheduled for late Thursday afternoon was cancelled at the last minute, and a live video crossing was done instead. There was no sound for the first few minutes on the shaky video link. The only thing Ramaphosa could think of to say, was: “I’m sure they will find someone for us to talk to in a minute, one who passed away millions of years ago.”
Seconds after his remark, the link cut out ending the transmission.
Meanwhile the ANC will go ahead with proposed amendments to the constitution to allow for the confiscation of white-owned land. Ramaphosa said that the Marxist transformation was “of critical importance” to the economy.
In a recorded address in the wake of the Johanneburg summit, Ramaphosa announced that the ruling ANC will “finalise a proposed amendment” for land expropriation without compensation.
The amendments could lead to land grabs, as happened in neighbouring Zimbabwe. The policy resulted in widespread poverty and economic hardship with millions of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa.