By Zukile Majova
President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC have been doing verbal gymnastics to explain that South Africa actually remains a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
First the president said we’re leaving the ICC. Then his spokesman said we’re not.
It all began on Tuesday when Ramaphosa said that the ruling party’s national executive committee has instructed the government to withdraw from the ICC.
Both party and state have been under pressure to announce their position on the decision of the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian leader is wanted by the Hague-based court for war crimes, including the forced deportation of children in occupied territories of Ukraine — a crime that amounts to genocide under international law.
But on Wednesday, there was a sharp u-turn. Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said: “South Africa remains a signatory to the ICC in line with a resolution of the 55th National Conference of the ANC — held in December 2022 — to rescind an earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC.
“The December resolution was reaffirmed at a meeting of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC during the weekend of 21 to 24 April 2023. The NEC had also reflected on the potential withdrawal from the ICC as an option that would arise as a measure of last resort in the absence of legal options that would result in fairness and consistency in the administration of international law,” he said.
The ANC said withdrawing from the ICC would be considered a very last resort “if and only if” its other proposals “do not yield the desired results of fairness and consistency in the administration of international law”.
Mzansi is preparing to host the next Brics Summit, which is expected to be attended by heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India and China.
It is during this summit in August that the Ramaphosa government would be expected to act on the arrest warrant of the ICC. Nobody is holding their breath, though.