Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a meeting of leaders of major developing countries on April 13 by saying the world should oppose unilateral sanctions and efforts by some countries to maintain their political and military power. Li Tao/Xinhua via AP

In an opinion piece written by Oupa Ngwenya published April 9 in the South African Sunday World, the headline framed the country’s foreign minister as presenting “(the) clearest voice with a good aim to U.S. madness.” 

According to Ngwenya, a corporate strategist, writer, and freelance journalist, “no one should be surprised when Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor exhibits the same state of independence of thought, action, and choice not only with respect to relations with Russia but also as a leading and active bonafide member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.”)

Her no holds barred approach can also be seen in a March interview while visiting India and in her defense of occupied Palestine. In 2022, wearing a traditional Palestinian scarf, Pandor reiterated South Africa’s steadfast commitment to the Palestinian cause, comparing it to the 20th century struggle against White minority rule in South Africa, reported Voice of America. “For many South Africans, the narrative of the Palestinian people’s struggle does evoke experiences of our own history of racial segregation and oppression,” Pandor said.

She added that Israel was continuing to “occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant resolutions of the U.N.,” and that it was “implementing apartheid.” During the WION interview, Pandor also addressed South Africa’s recent military exercises with Russia and China.


“Well, we are not at war with Russia. I think that’s important. It is tragic that there is a conflict and armed conflict underway in the 21st century. We had hoped after the Second World War, we would not see such conflicts, but we are not at war with Russia. We have a relationship with Russia and China, with India … Brazil and many other countries. We had a military drill with the United States in October of last year, and with other countries in the course of 2021. Nobody raised questions at that time,” she said.

“We are not providing Russia with arms. We’re not participating in any way in the conflict. We’re not providing either side. We’re not involved in the conflict and so to define the military drill, which is a pure naval exercise … I think it’s wrong and it’s just political posturing. I know that those who support Ukraine want every other country to take their side on the issue. We have chosen that we do not take sides, we encourage settlement and negotiation. We don’t wish to become a party to the conflict by choosing sides.”   

Concerning the Ukraine-Russia war, Pandor said she believes all conflicts, including those in Africa, need resolution. “We are worried about the Ukraine-Russia war. But of course, we do believe, as I am an African, I know there are many conflicts in Africa that are totally ignored at the moment. It says though, there’s only one part of the world where there’s a conflict.

And this is disturbing because as we said in our comments during the meeting if we’re worried about war and peace, it must be a worry for all humanity and not a part of humanity. And I think what we really need to be careful about is distracting the G20. I believe that India is correct in its view, which we share, that we should exhaust all manner of diplomacy in order to have a peaceful settlement between Russia and Ukraine.” 

Chairing the upcoming August BRICS summit the foreign minister was asked, “What is the focus like for your country? And also, is there any plan for the expansion of the grouping?”

Pandar said, “Well, with respect to our plan, as you know, South Africa is part of the African continent. And we’ve always in our foreign policy asserted that our duty and task is to enhance the character of Africa. So, our theme for the BRICS this year is BRICS and Africa. We would like to very firmly attach BRICS countries to African progress. And we have suggested that we do that with a focus on sustainable development, as well as on inclusive growth,” she said.

Concerning the expansion of BRICS, she spoke about other nations becoming involved. “Saudi Arabia is one … United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, and Argentina. So it’s a growing list (including) Mexico and Nigeria. So, there’s huge interest worldwide. And once we’ve shaped the criteria, we will then make the decision.”

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