South Africa still holds “neutral” stance on Ukraine war — minister
The meeting of financial chiefs of the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies held in Bengaluru, India, on 24-25 February 2023 failed to issue a proposed final communiqué in the face of Russian and Chinese objections, which has again brought into spotlight the self-proclaimed ‚neutrality’ of South Africa and many other countries on the continent.
While the G20 meeting was due to touch on issues including digital currencies and payments, reform of institutions like the World Bank, climate change and financial inclusion, in the end tensions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict flared, prompting the chairperson to issue a summary and an outcome document instead of a final joint statement. “I think the big sticking point has always been in every of these meetings, wrangling over the wording how do you word the Ukraine-Russian situation,” South Africa’s Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana commented on the G20 meeting.
Since Russia’s invasion, many African governments have officially not taken sides, claiming to remain ‘neutral’. Since the war in Ukraine broke a year ago, Pretoria has also taken a firm non-alignment stand on the conflict. That position drew vocal criticism from Western partners of South Africa, most particularly when the country launched military drills with Russia and China on 17 February. “South Africa has taken a firm non-alignment stand. In fact, a pro-negotiated settlement stance,“ Godongwana explained his country’s position. Regarding the criticism of the naval exercises, he said that South Africa’s “relationship with Russia and friendship has been in place for a long time… Does it necessarily mean by doing so that we support the war? I would argue no. What we disagree with other nations is not whether Russia was correct or not. What we disagree on is the proposed response to it.”