Cape Town – Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has denied claims that the South African government intended to protect Russian President Vladimir Putin from arrest while on South African soil.
This came after the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) announced this week that delegates attending the upcoming Brics summit in Johannesburg would receive diplomatic immunity, a routine practice.
However, the government has faced criticism for not complying with an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Putin for alleged war crimes
related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine.
South Africa, as a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, is obligated to act on the arrest order.
According to EWN, Ntshavheni assured diplomats from the Brics group during a visit to Russia that South Africa would be a hospitable host and provide diplomatic courtesies to the attendees, including immunity, to ensure their participation without legal concerns.
She was in Russia to attend a meeting of high-ranking officials on security matters.
She said the meeting discussed the issue of Ukraine and preparations for African leaders to meet Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to mediate on the conflict, IOL reported.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, she said: “In terms of the immunity issued by Dirco for the delegates to the BRICS summit, it is a standard practice when you are hosting international conferences and summits where you have got delegates and you give them immunity.
“The same way that we afford immunity to ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps. You need to provide them with immunity so that they will be free to participate in your country without a worry about the laws and all those other things that you are confronted with in your country.
“It is what is called diplomatic courtesies that are extended and there is nothing sinister about it. Whether the Russians wanted some sort of assurances? Actually it is the other countries that were in Russia that wanted assurances.”
She said that other countries attending the summit, such as China, also sought similar assurances.
Ntshavheni said there was nothing sinister about these diplomatic protocols and that they were customary when hosting conferences of this magnitude.
Compiled by Betha Madhomu