South Africa’s close ties with China, Russia, and Hamas are placing its relationship with the US in jeopardy.
This after US lawmakers Rep John James (Republican) and Rep Jared Moskowitz (Democrat) announced the introduction of the ‘US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act’ in the US House of Representatives early last week.
The draft legislation reflects a growing realisation that while South Africa claims to be “non-aligned” on the global stage, its actions often do not reflect this.
Of particular concern to the lawmakers are the South African government’s close ties with China, Russia, and Hamas, “a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and a proxy of the Iranian regime”. These relationships are considered a potential threat to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.
If the draft legislation passes, it will oblige the US administration to undertake a systematic review of South Africa’s activities to determine whether – as Congress suspects – they have undermined US interests. Should this be confirmed, it could result in a substantial reordering of the relationship between the US and South Africa.
South Africa, once lauded for its stance on human rights and admired for its successful transition from apartheid to democracy, is fast losing respect on the world stage. Its government is also increasingly out of step with popular sentiment amongst South Africans, says Hermann Pretorius of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).
The sponsors of the law further highlight the ANC government’s ineptitude in governance, naming blackouts, rail problems, a cholera outbreak and rampant corruption as examples of mismanagement that threaten the South African people and the South African economy, he adds.
Says John Endres, CEO of the IRR: “During my visit to Washington DC last year, I found enormous goodwill towards South Africa among the foreign policy establishment. However, this is tainted by a growing sense of frustration.
“The ANC government is unnecessarily imperilling South Africa’s good relationship with the US by choosing to side with autocratic governments that abuse human rights, restrict civil liberties and instigate armed conflict.”
The IRR points out that the US has long been an important partner for South Africa. America ranks among SA’s top three trading partners, has given South African exporters duty-free access to the large American consumer market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and has provided over $8 billion (R152 billion) to fund South Africa’s efforts at combating AIDS since 2004. US companies have large investments in South Africa that provide thousands of jobs, and South Africans favour the US as the best model for development by an almost 2:1 margin over second-placed China.