A delegation of US congressmen have called for the relocation of a US-Africa trade conference from South Africa, scheduled for later this year, citing the country’s “deepening military relationship” with Russia.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other top officials, they also claimed that, South Africa is at risk of jeopardizing its privileges under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), thus, Washington’s main trade scheme with Africa.
South Africa would be hosting the AGOA Forum in Johannesburg, a gathering of African leaders and United States officials, to deliberate on the program’s future, which is set to expire in 2025.
South Africa’s AGOA shipments to the US hit roughly $1 billion in the first three months of this year, putting SA, as the policy’s second-largest recipient after Nigeria. African nations have been trying to prolong AGOA, which offer qualified countries a preferential entry into US market for their products.
“We are seriously concerned that, hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum in South Africa would serve as an implicit endorsement of South Africa’s damaging support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the letter read.
In response to the letter, South African Foreign Ministry spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a social media post that, “There is no decision by the State Department or the White House to move the AGOA Forum from SA.” The Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa, which controls the country’s trade relations with the United States stated that, it does not intend to react publicly to the letter.
However, Judd Devermont, President Joe Biden’s special assistant for Africa, said the White House recognized Congress’ concerns over South Africa’s “potential security partnership with Russia.” However, he did not indicate if the government had considered relocating the AGOA Conference.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of private conversations with the South Africans, but be sure we are having these conversations,” he disclosed in an online media briefing.
The South Africa’s government announced its neutrality with regards to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has been taken part in an African-led attempt to broker a deal for the dispute.
The lawmakers, also, expressed dissatisfaction with South Africa’s hosting of joint naval exercises with China and Russia in February, as well as arrangements for a BRICS summit, to which Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited and encouraged to attend, regardless of being indicted for committing war crimes in Ukraine, by the International Criminal Court.
Additionally, the legislators seemed to support the US ambassador to South Africa’s allegations that, a sanctioned Russian warship amassed weaponry at a South African naval base the previous year. Officials in South Africa have already said, they are unaware of such a weaponry shipment, and have since begun an independent investigation into the incident.
Herman Mashaba, the former Mayor of Johannesburg, said in a post that, he will write a letter to US senators asking them to “give South Africa a chance until after the 2024 Provincial and National government elections”. “South Africans should not be punished as a result of the ANC government choosing to be on the wrong side of history,” he stated.
The diplomatic relations between the United States and South Africa have been gradually fallen, because of South Africa unwillingness to denounce Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, taken the stands of neutrality. However, South Africa is also a member of the BRICS, an economic coalitions of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS is scheduled for a summit in South Africa, in August.