ANC silent on Putin arrest warrant, EFF says Russian leader welcome in SA

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema has vowed to protect Putin from arrest, should he visit South Africa

ANC silent on Putin arrest warrant, EFF says Russian leader welcome in SA

The ANC has remained silent about the International Criminal Court’s issuing an arrest warrant for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, but the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said the Russian leader was “welcome” in South Africa.

South Africa faces a diplomatic problem because Putin is among the international dignitaries expected to attend the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in the country in August.

During a media briefing earlier this week, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula dodged a question about whether the government would arrest Putin should he enter the country.

South Africa as a member state of the ICC is legally obliged to arrest Putin. But the country has rich historical ties with Russia. This puts pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has already been caught in the crossfire between Russia and the United States.

The US has already indicated that it would review South Africa benefiting from its trade pact with African countries, after a controversial naval exercise off of the KwaZulu-Natal coast involving the South African, Russian and Chinese navies.

Pretoria has taken a controversial “neutral” stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly, to the frustration of its Western trade allies. 

South Africa had been at odds with the ICC, when the ruling ANC resolved to withdraw from the body which it had accused of targeting African leaders. The party changed its tune last year, opting to review its decision to withdraw because of the “changing balance of forces”.  

In 2015 the government came in for criticism when it failed to arrest the then Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, when he visited South Africa to attend an African Union summit. South Africa was required to do so because it is a signatory to the Rome Statute.

Al-Bashir had been indicted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but the administration of then president Jacob Zuma allowed him to leave the country despite a court order specifically prohibiting his departure. Shortly afterwards, some proponents of the ANC called for the withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

They believed the government’s obligation to arrest heads of state implicated in crimes against humanity, specifically in Africa, complicated South Africa’s efforts to resolve conflicts on the continent. The ANC, along with other African states that were strongly agitating for an “African solution to African problems”, also believed the ICC was targeting Africa while ignoring leaders in the West.

On Thursday EFF leader Julius Malema took a firmer stance than the governing party on the Putin issue. 

“If need be, we will go and fetch him from the airport to his meeting, he will address, finish all his meetings, we will take him back to the airport. We are not going to be told by these hypocrites of the ICC who know the real violators of human rights, who know the murders of this world,” Malema said. 

Malema argued that the ICC had failed to act against Western leaders including former British prime minister Tony Blair and  former US presidents Goerge W Bush and Barack Obama. He said Blair and Bush had invaded Iraq without reason while Obama had killed Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. 

He added that the EFF did not want the ICC’s “hypocrisy  to apply here in our country”.

“Putin is welcomed. We know our friends, we know the people that libretared us,” he said, referring to Russia’s historic role in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid rule.

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