leader tells US not to ‘punish’ continent


South Africa’s president insists it’s not up to Washington to determine his country’s diplomatic ties

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged the US not to “to punish” African countries by pressuring them to cut ties with Moscow, pointing to legislation passed by Congress calling for more US intervention on the continent.

After meeting US President Joe Biden on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke to reporters about the bill, the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, in which he said the measure “Africa will harm and marginalize the continent.”

“We shouldn’t be told by anyone we can associate with,” he added, pointing to South Africa’s long-held policy of not aligning world powers.

Though the two leaders exchanged pleasantries during their meeting and did not mention Russian legislation — as detailed in the White House readout of the discussion — Ramaphosa spoke separately with the Congressional Black Caucus during his visit and again criticized the bill.

South Africa is “Worried [about] the potential implications for the African continent if the ‘Countering Malign Russian Activities Bill’ were to become US law,” he said, adding that it could have been… “the unintended consequence of punishing the continent for efforts to promote development and growth.”

Pretoria considers both Washington and Moscow as “strategic partners,” the president sued, urging US lawmakers not to “punish those who have an independent opinion”, especially at a time when “President Biden has sought to engage African countries on the basis of respect for their independence and sovereignty.”

However, US policymakers have insisted that the bill does not propose penalties for African states that choose to continue ties with Russia, said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council. “The United States does not let anyone choose between us and anyone else, whether it be Ukraine or the Indo-Pacific region.”

“By and large, no punishment is intended for anyone here,” Kirby told reporters on Friday, adding: “We respect sovereignty.”

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