SA-US relations will be scrutinized as US lawmakers seek to review ties, cite ICJ case

For how long will South Africa remain a “solid” and “strategic” US partner on the continent?

The U.S. State Department terms its relations with the southern African nation as “strong”.

However, US congressmen John James and Jared Moskowitz would like the ties to come under review. 

They introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives on Feb.06 that seeks to undergo a review of the bilateral ties between the United States and South Africa.

Rep. John James accuses Pretoria of “building ties to countries and actors that undermine [the US’s] national security and threaten [the US] way of life through its military and political cooperation with China and Russia and its support of U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas.”

It calls South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel “a politically motivated” one and claims it is “wrongfully accusing Israel”.

Speaking to South African newspaper Mail & Guardian, the country’s top diplomat Naledi Pandor said  she believes “South Africa offers quality products to the US market and I wish that relationship to grow.”

“We have different views on many foreign policy matters but as a democracy, we affirm the sovereign right of states to frame their foreign policy. I am concerned at the bill drafters attempt to associate our country with terrorism and the atrocious attack against civilians in Israel.”

Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, told Bloomberg on Monday (Feb. 12) that “a lot of the issues raised by the members of Congress are issues that have either been dealt with through our own judicial processes or clarified in public communication.”

“Following the ICJ ruling on our application, the argument that our case was wrongful or politically motivated can no longer be sustained,” Magwenya added.

The bill still has to be discussed and passed.

Previous move by US lawmakers

Last June, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers asked the Biden administration in a letter to punish South Africa by relocating the 20th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum set to place in Johannesburg in November 2023 to another country.

The lawmakers claimed South Africa supported Russia’s invasion and called into question its eligibility to receive trade benefits from the U.S. under a law that improved U.S. market access to qualifying sub-Saharan African countries.

At the time, South African foreign ministry spokesperson Clayson Monyela said in a statement that the letter had been “noted” but South Africa still “enjoys the support of the U.S. government” for its hosting of the African Growth and Opportunity Act meeting.

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