by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
PRETORIA, (CAJ News) – WHILE they are deepening ties, Germany and South Africa have maintained their opposing stances on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The positions were maintained during the official visit to the Southern African country by Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the invitation of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
While the first visit by Scholz to South Africa since his election in December 2021 was aimed at cementing trade and economic relations between the two countries, the months-long conflict pitting Russia and Ukraine dominated proceedings at the Union Buildings in the capital Pretoria.
The German leader did not mince his words on the conflict, denouncing President Vladimir Putin’s Russia for the “brutal war” and war of aggression.
“Energy prices, the economy and food security are under pressure from Putin’s war of aggression,” Scholz said in the South African capital.
He warned, “Ending the war will save the lives of many people that otherwise would die.”
“We have to convince Russia that they will go out of the war and give peace a chance for Ukraine and for the development of all of us,” Scholz said.
Europe’s largest economy, Germany, has been among the countries most critical and has adopted a pro-Ukraine stance.
It has imposed sanctions on Putin’s government.
In March, Germany was one of the 141 countries that voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
They demanded the immediate and complete withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.
On the other hand, South Africa is among 35 countries that abstained from voting, much to criticism of the country’s foreign policy by the local opposition parties that accused Ramaphosa’s government of being complicit.
South Africa, a continental powerhouse, has maintained a non-alignment stance and has resisted pressure to condemn Russia, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member.
Following the meeting with Scholz, Ramaphosa stressed on the need for the cessation of hostilities, describing it as one of the best ways to deal with the escalating conflict.
A ceasefire, he said, would pave the way for the warring parties to attain peace.
“South Africa would like the conflict to come to an end. We call for a cessation of hostilities, which must be done through negotiations and dialogue,” Ramaphosa added.
South Africa believes there is a need for the international community to encourage dialogue and negotiation towards a peaceful resolution.
While the two countries’ stance on the Russo-Ukrainian War differ, Germany and South Africa enjoy solid relations.
Scholz’s visit coincided with 26 years since then-President Nelson Mandela’s state visit to the European country in 1996, and the establishment of the Bi-National Commission between the two nations.
West Germany and Apartheid South Africa had very close ties, despite international sanctions.
The establishment of current diplomatic ties and the inauguration of the Bi-National Commission in 1996 have been on fields such as good governance and strengthening democracy, HIV prevention, climate change and energy.
“Germany is one of South Africa’s most valued strategic partners,” Ramaphosa said.
“It is our second largest trading partner, a major investor and a big market for inbound tourism,” he added.
South Africa’s total trade with Germany is R266 billion (US$17 billion). Its exports, mostly value-added products, account for R155 billion a year.
More than 600 German companies are operating in South Africa.
Thus the two delegations discussed avenues to increase trade and investment of German companies in South Africa as well as South African companies into Germany.
Germany has pledged a commitment to support South Africa’s efforts towards industrialisation, infrastructure development and job creation.
Scholz and his delegation were scheduled to visit integrated energy and chemical company, Sasol, where the two governments were to launch a historic partnership for the development of carbon emissions reduction technologies, including green hydrogen.
Africa’s most advanced economy is in dire need of economic reconstruction after the fragile economy took a knock because of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
Corruption and the resurgent power cuts have worsened the economic situation, at a time unemployment is at an all-time high.
Germany has rendered wide-ranging support to Africa’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
Germany was the first country to respond to calls from the Access to COVID-19 tools (ACT-A) Facilitation Council, for countries to contribute their fair share towards ending the pandemic.
At the second Global COVID-19 Summit earlier this month, Germany pledged to donate EUR 850 million to assist poorer countries to increase their vaccination rates, and EUR 50 million to the pandemic preparedness fund.
The two countries’ discussions focused mainly on the support Germany can lend to local efforts to ensure that vaccines produced in the continent are given greater market share in developed countries.
They advocated that vaccines destined for African populations should be procured locally.
Besides the situation in Ukraine, Ramaphosa and Scholz discussed a broad range other international issues.
These included the pursuit of peace and security on the African continent, where silencing the guns remains a challenge to attain.
On his first trip to the African continent as Chancellor, Scholz made Senegal his first stop. He met President Macky Sall, who is the African Union (AU) chairman.
– CAJ News