At the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) foreign ministers meeting in Cape Town early June, there were high expectations. The first on the agenda was International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant issued from The Hague for Russian President Vladimir Putin if he travels to the country. From historical perspectives, South Africa and Russia have close relationships from the time of the former’s political and liberation struggle, and with developments until it joined BRICS in 2010.
On the unofficial levels, Putin has worked out friendship with both former President Jacob Zuma and the current South African Cyril Ramaphosa. We know very well that this strategic relationship is (un)doubtlessly influencing politics between the two countries and of course, the two plus China in BRICS.
Putin is the target of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children. A member of the ICC, Pretoria, which has close diplomatic ties with Moscow, would be expected to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country.
The South African government previously drew international criticism in 2015, when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who had been indicted for war crimes and genocide, while he was attending a meeting of African leaders in Johannesburg. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had acted unlawfully and the ICC found that it had failed to failed to comply with its international obligations.
Reading further around reports which emerged from the foreign ministers meeting, there was the both local and foreign media, including Reuters, AP, AFP and Bloomberg said South Africa was now considering switching the venue of an upcoming summit of BRICS leaders to another country. This move that would resolve its dilemma over whether to execute an international arrest warrant for Putin. In fact one highly possibility is to task China to host the BRICS leaders summit in August.
But the Department of International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor’s spokesman, Lunga Ngqengelele, said that as things stand, the summit will be held in Gauteng province, where the commercial hub of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, are situated. “As far as we are aware, we have announced the summit venue as Gauteng, South Africa. That is what we know as of today.” according to Lunga Ngqengelele.
Secondly, the BRICS foreign minister are concerned about new currency that could be used to dodge sanctions. The BRICS National Development Bank specially created bank to provide guidance on a how a potential new shared currency might work, including how it could shield other member countries from the impact of sanctions such as those imposed on Russia. The foreign ministers already discussed, at length, long before the meeting but how the bloc can win greater global influence and to challenge the United States still remained for future.
The BRICS are looking to “ensure that we do not become victims to sanctions that have secondary effects on countries that have no involvement in issues that have led to those unilateral sanctions,” Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of international relations, told reporters after the meeting. Proposals are being considered by officials at the New Development Bank, the Shanghai-based lender created by BRICS nations, and the bloc “will be guided to them as to what the future models might be,” Pandor said, without providing further details.
Thirdly, plans for expansion. In fact, BRICS activities have expanded during the past few years. Countries participated in the Outreach and BRICS plus segments of the organization. There are also a number of African countries including Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal have also shown interest. Egypt has already been involved for a fairly long time. Last December 2022, Egypt, the decision on its accession to the New Development Bank was made by BRICS.
The prospect of adding more members was first raised at last year’s summit in China and 13 nations have formally asked to join, with at least seven others expressing interest. Now BRICS ministers were joined by counterparts from countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Kazakhstan. Also and with more than 20 countries aspiring to join. Asked about a meeting held with a Saudi Arabian delegation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said only that the issue of the kingdom joining was discussed, amid broader talks about how the bloc should expand its membership.
Saudi Arabia’s potential accession to BRICS would bolster Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s attempts to diversify his nation’s economy, an effort that has bought it much closer to Russia and China in recent years. China is the kingdom’s most important oil customer, while it relies on relations with Russia to help prop up crude prices through OPEC+.
For the Gulf region, joining major trade blocks makes sense as countries seek to expand trade ties and develop as global transit hubs, a person familiar with Gulf thinking said. Plans to join have been in the works for a while and momentum has been building toward this point, the person said.
BRICS, which invited South Africa to join in 2010, has failed to punch its weight as a group. That’s despite its members representing more than 42% of the world’s population and accounting for 23% of global gross domestic product and 18% of trade, giving credence to demands for more sway.
South Africa believes that the bloc could be “transformative” representing those nations that wish to play a role in world affairs, ensuring benefit to the Global South. “BRICS has acquired a very important stature in the world, with many countries across various continents of our world seeking to be part of it,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told lawmakers in Cape Town.
South Africa has its own internal problems, deepening each passing day. The ANC is playing hard on its foreign relations with external Countries especially with Russia, the United States and Europe. The geopolitical tensions have added to worries about the impact on South Africa’s economic outlook from daily blackouts and logistical constraints that are hampering exports, with the rand falling to successive record lows over the past month.
South Africa, as per stipulated approved guidelines and rules, holds the rotating presidency of BRICS, the organization of five emerging developing countries made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS is a model organization of genuine multilateral diplomacy. Its structure is formed in compliance with the 21st century realities.
From all indications BRICS is developing, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the member-countries names in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographical area and about 42% of the world’s population