No future for US’ anti-SA Bill – claim
Publish date: 12 February 2024
Issue Number: 1063
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa
The Department of International Relations & Co-Operation does not believe there is a legislative future for a bipartisan US Bill that – if adopted – will oblige the US administration to conduct a comprehensive review of that country’s relations with SA. A Business Day report says the two members of Congress who introduced the Bill last week, Republican John James and Democrat Jared Moskowitz, condemn what they say is SA’s siding with ‘malign actors’ on the international stage such as Hamas. The US-SA Bilateral Relations Review Act is in the first stage of the legislative process and will typically be considered first by a committee before it is possibly sent to the House of Representatives or the Senate. While the adoption of the Bill could have negative consequences for SA’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows duty-free access for a range of products, and could affect investor sentiment, spokesperson for the department Clayson Monyela said: ‘We don’t think the Bill will go anywhere. The US Government values the mutually beneficial relations with SA and they don’t share the views of the drafters of the proposed Bill.’ International Relations & Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor expressed concern that the drafters of the Bill attempted to associate SA with terrorism and ‘the atrocious attack against civilians in Israel’ by Hamas on 7 October. ‘Our government would encourage a more informed and balanced perspective and will continue to work at strengthening our relationship,’ she said. If adopted, the Bill will require the President not later than 30 days after enactment of the Act to release a determination explicitly stating whether SA has engaged in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests. It must be accompanied by a report justifying the determination. It will also require a full review of the bilateral relationship between the US and SA that must be conducted not later than 120 days after enactment.
If passed, the US-SA Bilateral Relations Review Act would also require the administration to report to Congress ‘explicitly stating whether SA has engaged in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests.’ The Daily Maverick reports the Bill says that in contrast to its stated non-alignment, Pretoria has been siding with ‘malign actors’, building military and political ties with Russia and China and supporting Hamas, designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation and a known proxy of Iran. ‘These ties undermine America’s national security and foreign policy interests and ‘threaten our way of life,’ the Bill says. The document is not quite clear about how US security and foreign policy interests have been undermined, though it does suggest that Washington’s relations with SA are distracting it from seeking its own energy security. The Bill also cited ‘rampant state capture’ during the Jacob Zuma administration which it said continued to negatively impact economic development and living standards. It is unclear whether the Bill will pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate to become law or even that the House would vote on it. Republicans, who are generally more hostile to SA control the House, but Democrats control the Senate and would be more likely to reject the Bill to avoid embarrassing and tying the hands of the Biden administration.