Desk of the president | Our relationship with the US is built on mutual respect and cooperation

Monday, 25 March 2024

Our relationship with the US is built on mutual respect and cooperation  
Dear Fellow South African,   
The relationship between South Africa and the United States has received a great deal of attention recently.   
Strengthening ties between the two countries was among the important issues that Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, discussed with US officials during a working visit to Washington last week. The topic also featured prominently in a meeting that I had in Cape Town last month with a bipartisan delegation from the US Congress.  
Also last week, a committee of the US House of Representatives discussed a proposed bill that would require a full review of the bilateral relationship between the United States and South Africa.  
These discussions provide an opportunity to clarify our positions and to correct misperceptions about our foreign policy.  
An important starting point for that discussion is that since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has sought through its foreign policy to promote peace, security and development on the African continent and across the world.   
Consistent with our history, South Africa has taken a non-aligned position in our international relations. We have deliberately avoided aligning our country with any of the major powers or blocs. Rather we have sought to forge cordial relations with all countries. While we have taken a non-aligned position, we continue to pursue positions that are in keeping with the UN Charter.  
We have sought to advance an inclusive and representative world order, to strengthen multilateralism and to promote the resolution of conflict through dialogue.   
It is in pursuit of this approach that South Africa has worked to strengthen relations with countries around the world, including the United States.  
Our relationship with the US is characterised by mutual respect and a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue even on issues where we may differ.  
Even on contentious issues – such as the docking of a Russian ship in Simonstown in late 2022, the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the current conflict in Gaza – the South African and US governments have been able to share views in a frank and open manner. 
The matter regarding the docking of the Russian ship at Simonstown was fully investigated and satisfactorily put to rest. South Africa’s participation in the African Peace Mission to Ukraine and Russia has led to South Africa’s continuing involvement together with many other countries, including the United States, in discussions that are aimed at finding solutions to the resolution of the war.
In this way, we have encouraged greater understanding and cooperation between ourselves as South Africa, the United States and many other countries on matters of mutual interest.  
One of the areas of contention on which there has been much commentary, as well as much misinformation, is the position that South Africa has taken on the conflict in Gaza. There has been a particular focus on the case that South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice, where we argued that the actions of the Israeli military in Gaza violate international law and includes actions that are prohibited under the Genocide Convention, to which South Africa, Israel and many other countries are signatories.  
Our application to the court is consistent not only with our obligations as a signatory to the Genocide Convention, but also the call we have always made for an inclusive negotiated settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This position is consistent with UN resolutions. We have always supported the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians to self-determination and statehood and of the state of Israel to peace and security.  
We have consistently called for the application of international law, condemning the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians on 7 October last year and calling for the release of hostages. We continue to call for an immediate ceasefire, the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and meaningful negotiations towards a lasting solution.  
These are positions that are increasingly being taken up by more and more countries around the world. The suggestion that the position we have taken on the conflict could lead to a deterioration of our relations with the United States is therefore unfounded.  
South Africa has strong economic, political and social ties with the US. We remember the support from the American people during our struggle for democracy. Over the last 30 years, we have had, and continue to have, a supportive, mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship between our two countries.  
We are grateful for the support that the US has provided to South Africa over many years in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The PEPFAR programme has contributed significantly – and continues to contribute – to the remarkable progress we have made to deal with AIDS.  
South Africa and the US have firm and expanding trade and investment ties. South Africa is home to more than 600 US companies and the US is the second largest destination for South African exports. Some of our large companies, such as Sasol, have made significant investments in key economic sectors in the United States.
An important part of the economic ties between South Africa and the US is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants qualifying African countries duty-free access to the US market for their exports.  
The recent AGOA Forum, held in South Africa in November last year, confirmed the value of AGOA to Africa’s industrialisation and integration and to the diversification of its economies. The trade and investment ties that have been developed through AGOA, provide a platform for US investors to participate in the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area.  
We also welcome US participation in the Just Energy Transition Partnership alongside a growing number of other countries. South Africa has great opportunities for investment in the green economy and for the supply of critical minerals for the global energy transition.  
There is great potential to further develop our relationship with the United States and to find ways to work together for a more peaceful, stable and just world. 
South Africa will continue to seek firm and friendly relations with countries around the world in pursuit of a better world.
With best regards,