US concerned over South Africa's growing ties with Russia, Iran and Hamas: 'Fallen' for propaganda

South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause is the culmination of a confused and increasingly troubling diplomatic trend for a country with whom the U.S. now questions its bilateral cooperation, critics have claimed. 

“The South African government has fallen hook, line and sinker for Russian propaganda,” Peter Doran, an adjunct senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and former president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, told Fox News Digital. 

“Russia has proposed to all African countries that the United States and Western powers are colonialists, whose interests are not aligned with theirs, whereas Russia and China are benign benefactors and friends in the world,” Doran said. 

“The truth is that Russia stands as the 20th century’s worst colonial power. Russia has hidden that, and it doesn’t present that part of its history to South Africa, and so many African countries, especially South Africa, have fallen for Russian propaganda about colonialism,” he added. 

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Congress passed the Bilateral Relations Review Act in February, mandating President Biden to determine “whether South Africa has engaged in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests” within 30 days of enactment. Rep. John James, R-Mich., introduced the bill after growing greatly concerned with South Africa’s alignment with China and Russia and embracement of Hamas.”

“It is important to show the South African people that the United States is paying attention, and I am proud that the committee passed this bipartisan legislation,” James said. 

BRICS allies G20

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa waves as he walks past China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/AFP via Getty Images)

The bill also requires the administration to “comprehensively review the bilateral relationship between the United States and South Africa and report to the Congress on its findings within 120 days of enactment.”

South Africa has increasingly aligned itself with Russia and China, doubling down on its association with the BRICS economic bloc: The founding five members, which include South Africa, met in Johannesburg last year for the group’s 15th summit, where they discussed and agreed on expanding membership. 

“What is fundamental about the BRICS expansion is that the multipolar world is definitely emerging,” Dr. Kinglsey Makhubela, a former South African ambassador, told Sputnik Africa. “There’s no longer this unipolar world that has been dominated by the United States and its allies.”

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Putin and Ramaphosa

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JULY 29 (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) greets South African Persident Cyril Ramaphosa (L) during their bilateral meeting, on July 29,2023, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. President Putin hosted just 17 African leaders in this years’s summit compared with the 43 who atteded in 2019 participate in the Russia-African Summit. Talks centred with food security and the war in Ukraine. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

However, it mainly seems that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has pursued this policy, with the opposition party slamming South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor’s recent visit to the U.S. as a “dismal failure.” 

“Speaking with a forked tongue whilst in D.C, the Minister defended South Africa’s friendly relations with oppressive regimes such as Iran and Russia under the auspices of her government’s commitment to ‘non-alignment,’ whilst insisting that the country had a ‘moral obligation’ to act against injustice at the ICJ,” Shadow Minister for International Relations Emma Louise Powell told Fox News Digital. 

“The truth is, Pandor’s foreign policy positions are guided by nothing other than the ANC’s financial and political survival,” Powell argued, claiming that “the bottom line is that no one is buying what Pandor and Ramaphosa are selling anymore.” 

Naledi Pandor visits Iran

TEHRAN, IRAN – OCTOBER 22: Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Naledi Pandor (L) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) meet at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran on October 22, 2023. (Photo by Haydar Sahin/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“As the Official Opposition in South Africa, we have one job to do, and that is kick the corrupt ANC out of power in the May election, so that we can regain the trust of our most important international allies, and rebuild fraying trading relations with our Western partners (like the USA), whose investment into our emerging market puts food on the table for millions of South Africans,” Powell said. 

The growing divide between the U.S. and South Africa became more apparent as each took up opposing sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict: South Africa led a case before the International Court of Justice that accused Israel of carrying out a genocide in the Gaza Strip, while the U.S. has rejected such accusations. 

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry, in turn accused South Africa as acting as “the legal arm of Hamas in an attempt to undermine Israel’s inherent right to defend itself and its citizens and to release all of the hostages.” 

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Anti-Israel protest in South Africa

A man brandishes a replica toy gun during a pro Palestinian demonstration organised by the South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in front of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, on October 23, 2023.  (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

Foreign Minister Pandor on March 10 said authorities would arrest any South Africans who fight alongside the Israeli military, warning, “We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you.” She also urged citizens to protest outside the embassies of Israel’s “five primary supporters,” according to the FDD. 

“From a global perspective, the war for Ukraine has revealed, a change in international politics,” Doran argued. “The old, the former era prior to 2022, in the former era, prior to 2022, countries could sit on the fence: They could play both sides. Look at India, an example of a country which plays both sides, which sits on the fence. That was a permissible environment. 

“Today, we are no longer in a permissible environment where countries can sit on the fence and play both sides. Now is absolutely a time for choosing,” Doran stressed. 

South Africa Genocide

South Africa’s ambassador to The Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, right, attends the hearings at the International Court of Justice on Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories in The Hague, Netherlands, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Nikos Oikonomou/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the two countries share a “strong relationship” based on “the priorities of the American people and the South African people,” with trade growing every year, making the U.S. South Africa’s “second-largest bilateral trading partner.”

However, the State Department accused South Africa of falling for Russian propaganda and influence, as well as warning all African countries to remain wary of China’s interests and overtures. 

“The United States does not seek to limit African partnerships with other countries,” the spokesperson insisted. “However, Russia… manufactures and exploits insecurity to expand its presence on the African continent, threatening stability and, good governance, robbing countries of their mineral wealth, and undermining respect for human rights in the process.”

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“Ultimately, we have a strong relationship with South Africa, and because we have a strong relationship, we have had open and frank conversations about all of these issues and priorities,” the spokesperson said, adding that the U.S. echoes “long-standing calls… that the PRC must respect host country laws and international obligations.”

Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov

People on a yacht, right, protest against the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov docked in the Cape Town harbour South Africa, Tuesday, Feb. ​14​, 2023 en route to the South African east coast to conduct naval exercises with the South African and Chinese Navy. The exercise is set to begin Friday Feb. 17, 2023, a demonstration of the countries’ close ties amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s tense relationship with the West. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht) ((AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht))

Part of the problem derives from South Africa’s economic struggles: Already struggling with the world’s highest unemployment rate, Cape Town reported in February that unemployment increased to 32.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023 – a total of 7.9 million unemployed people. 

The International Monetary Fund in 2023 reported that South Africa had recorded “weak growth” of around 0.4% between January and March, citing “crippling power cuts, volatile commodity prices and a challenging external environment” as significant contributing factors. 

Palestinian support genocide

People gather outside the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands, on Jan. 26, 2024, as the ICJ ruled on South Africa’s accusations against Israel. (Nikos Oikonomou/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“The country has faced rolling blackouts after years of mismanagement of the state-owned utility, Eskom, prompting the authorities to ease the registration process and licensing requirements for energy production to encourage private sector investment,” the IMF wrote, adding that an “elevated debt level – one of the highest among emerging markets – limits the government’s ability to respond to shocks.”

South Africa has also showed support for Russia and China by abstaining from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and parroting blame of NATO for provoking the conflict. The country also hosted Russian and Chinese naval forces for an exercise that occurred on the anniversary of the invasion. 

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has also expressed support for Iran, long known as a sponsor of Hamas – as well as almost two dozen Islamic extremist groups – calling Iran a “true and reliable friend.” Iran has also looked to join BRICS as one of the countries that helped almost double the group’s membership in the first of several planned expansions. 

The South African Foreign Ministry did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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