A US bill that seeks to act against African countries that support Russian activities on the continent has been described by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as having the potential to punish such countries.
Addressing a meeting with the US Congressional Black Caucus and anti-apartheid veterans on Friday, Ramaphosa said the bill, if passed, could have unintended consequences on the African continent.
He strongly condemned the Russian Malicious Acts Bill proposed by the United States, calling it detrimental to Africa’s development. The bill would force Washington to punish any government in Africa that aids Russia’s malign activities, SA people News, a South African news portal, reported.
(If passed) the law could have the unintended consequence of punishing the continent for its efforts to advance development and growth, Ramaphosa said.
In terms of the bill, the United States will assess Russia’s influence on African countries, especially those that it believes harm the interests of those nations.
Analysts have long said that Russia and China are having a big impact on the continent with their infrastructure investments, potentially creating obligations on African countries.
“I think (the law) will harm Africa and marginalize the continent. No one we can partner with should tell us that,” Ramaphosa told media after his meeting.
This echoes the sentiment previously expressed by South Africa’s Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, during a press conference with US Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken after her visit to the country last month.
Pandor said then that attempts to bully nations into taking sides in the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia were unacceptable.
South Africa, along with neighboring states of Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique, were among the countries that abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly earlier this year on a resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine.
Ramaphosa said the United States and Russia, the latter partner in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) coalition, were both strategic partners for South Africa.
As a sovereign country that pursues an independent foreign policy, the bill appears to punish those who hold independent views. It is disappointing that this bill was crafted at a time when President Biden sought to engage African countries on the basis of respect for their independence and sovereignty, Ramaphosa said.
Despite this strong opinion, Biden welcomed Ramaphosa to the White House for a meeting. “We really have to make sure that we fully understand each other. Our partnership is key,” Biden said.
Ramaphosa told Biden that his country would work closely with the United States on issues related to health, security and climate change, while cautioning the US head of state, but emphasizing guard against punishing African nations for maintaining ties with Russia.
Ramaphosa praised the role of American anti-apartheid activists in the United States for their support in ending decades of white minority rule in the country.
After our experience of apartheid, we know that self-determination can only be achieved with the support and solidarity of the peoples of the world, Ramaphosa said as he urged the Congressional Black Caucus to continue the fight against international human rights abuses of man in the world.
He also asked the Caucus to encourage investment in South Africa and on the African continent. Ramaphosa left the United States on Saturday to attend the state funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth in the United Kingdom on Monday.
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