Cape Town, South Africa – In April, a delegation of senior officials of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) undertook what the party said was an invitation from “a long-standing ally”, Russia’s ruling party. It travelled to Moscow to discuss what the ANC said was the “recalibration of the global order”. Among the delegation was Deputy Foreign Minister Alvin Botes.
This month, army chief Lawrence Mbatha was also in Moscow on the invitation of Oleg Salyukov, commander-in-chief of Russia’s ground forces, who described it as a “goodwill visit”. State security minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni is also to visit Russia in a few days, ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa as part of an African leaders’ peace mission to Russia and Ukraine.
The flurry of high-profile visits has come even as South Africa insists publicly that it is neutral in the war between Russia and Ukraine despite longstanding ties with Moscow.
And now, ahead of the BRICS summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in August, the extent of that neutrality will be put to the test.
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin for forced deportations of children from Ukraine to Russia.