South Africa’s Ramaphosa says ruling party wants country to quit ICC
President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday his ruling ANC party had resolved that South Africa should quit the International Criminal Court, which last month issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March meaning Pretoria, due to host the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa bloc summit this year, would have to detain him on arrival.
“Yes, the governing party… has taken that decision that it is prudent that South Africa should pull out of the ICC,” Ramaphosa said during a press conference co-hosted with the visiting President of Finland Sauli Niinisto.
Ramaphosa said the decision, which follows a weekend meeting of the African National Congress (ANC), was reached “largely” because of what is perceived as the court’s unfair treatment of certain countries.
“We would like this matter of unfair treatment to be properly discussed, but in the meantime the governing party has decided once again that there should be a pull out,” he said.
The arrest warrant against Putin followed accusations that the Kremlin unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.
On whether South Africa would arrest Putin, Ramaphosa said “that matter is under consideration”.
But his party’s secretary general Fikile Mbalula earlier declared that “Putin can come anytime in this country”.
“This ICC does not serve the interest of all but the interest of a few,” Mbalula told a separate news conference.
– ‘Needs to be negotiation’ –
Pretoria has close ties with Moscow dating back decades to when the Kremlin supported the ANC’s fight against apartheid.
The continental powerhouse has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage, saying it wants to stay neutral and prefers dialogue to end the war.
South Africa has “adopted this stance of being non-aligned is to ensure that we are able, as a country to play a role in helping conflict to come to an end,” said Ramaphosa.
He said he had spoken to Putin several times and “my message has been clear. There needs to be negotiation”.
It is not the first time South Africa has attempted to withdraw from the ICC.
It made an attempt in 2016 following a dispute a year earlier when then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country for an African Union summit. It refused to arrest him despite the then-leader facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.
The controversial decision to pull out was however revoked when a domestic court ruled such a move would have been unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, it held a controversial joint military exercise with Russia and China, which critics cite as evidence of a tilt towards the Kremlin.