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US Congressmen propose bill to review relations with SA

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Picture: Remko De Waal / ANP MAG / ANP via AFP – THE HAGUE. President Donoghue, centre, and other judges in the International Court of Justice prior to the hearing of the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa. According to the South Africans, Israel is committing genocidal acts against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

By Sihle Mlambo

A US Congress bill tabled in the House of Representatives has called for a full review of relations between Washington and Pretoria, accusing South Africa of being in bed with Hamas, Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran.

The bill, which could spell trouble for South Africa in various facets of business, aid, and geopolitics were it to be passed, has been proposed by Congressmen John James and Jared Moskowitz, who are from the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.

The bill calls on US President Joe Biden to make an unclassified determination within 30 days of the act being enacted, if Pretoria has engaged in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests.

This comes after deepening tension between South Africa and the US, who have been at odds with one another regarding the Russia-Ukraine war and Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. The bill also expressed discomfort with Pretoria increasingly cosying up with Russia, China, and Iran, the congressmen alleged.

The bill slates Pretoria for apparently acting at odds with its publicly stated stance of non-alignment, accusing it of strengthening ties with Iran through Hamas, Russia, and China.

It calls on Biden, the US Agency for International Development, the Secretary of Defence, the US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, and the heads of other departments and agencies that play a substantial role in US relations with South Africa to conduct a comprehensive review of the bilateral relationship between Washington and Pretoria.

It states that within 120 days or four months after the date of enactment of the Act, Biden “shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes the findings of the review”.

Tensions between Pretoria and Washington have heightened since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently ruled in South Africa’s favour when it ordered Israel to take immediate steps to prevent genocidal actions in Gaza; prevent and punish incitement to genocide; allow access to humanitarian aid; and prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence of alleged crimes. It must also report back to the court within a month on the implementation of these measures.

The US is one of South Africa’s biggest trade partners, with the US government through its African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) providing South Africa with duty-free access to the US market for over 1,800 products. A repeal of Agoa could lead to a higher cost of business for businesses that trade with the US, while much-needed aid in HIV/Aids programmes – through the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), could also come under jeopardy.

The proposed bill, which is titled the “US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act”, says that the actions of the governing ANC, were “inconsistent with its publicly stated policy of non-alignment in international affairs”.

“In contrast to its stated stance of non-alignment, the SA government has a history of siding with malign actors, including Hamas, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation and a proxy of the Iranian regime, and continues to pursue closer ties with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation,” said the proposed bill.

The bill accused Pretoria of supporting Hamas since 1994 and of “taking a hard-line stance of consistently accusing Israel of practising apartheid”.

They accused the South African government and ANC leaders of “blaming Israel for provoking the attack” on October 7th and said they had made “a variety of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel-related statements”.

In the proposed bill, ANC spokesperson, Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri was accused of defending Hamas by saying the attacks were “unsurprising”, while President Cyril Ramaphosa was slammed for accusing Israel of “genocide” and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor was slated for having a phone call with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh just days after the attack.

The bill also said Pandor had met with government leaders from Iran.

“The South African government has pursued increasingly close relations with the Russian Federation, which has been accused of perpetrating war crimes in Ukraine and indiscriminately undermining human rights. South Africa’s robust relationship with Russia spans the military and political space, including – allowing a United States-sanctioned Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, to dock and transfer arms at a South African naval base in December 2022,” said the bill.

A probe conducted by Pretoria found there was no evidence any arms had been loaded onto Lady R, despite the damaging claims by US Ambassador to Pretoria, Brigety. The bill also expressed discomfort with the ANC strengthening ties with the Chinese Communist Party and also that South Africa was home to six Chinese Confucius Institutes.

“It is in the national security interest of the United States to deter strategic political and security co-operation and information sharing with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, particularly any form of co-operation that may aid or abet Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine or its international standing or influence.

“The ANC’s foreign policy actions have long ceased to reflect its stated stance of non-alignment, and now directly favour the PRC, the Russian Federation, and Hamas, a known proxy of Iran, and thereby undermine United States national security and foreign policy interests”.

Sihle is PM Editor at IOL