‘Have you arrested them?’ Mbalula calls out UK over Iraq war in Putin debate
'You are making a lot of noise about Putin instead of working for peace between Ukraine and Russia and you fail to resolve the war,' Mbalula told the BBC.
ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula briefs the media at Luthuli House in Johannesburg on 31 January 2023. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula has called out the hypocrisy of those who are calling on South Africa to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin, when no leader has been arrested for the Iraq invasion.
South Africa, which is the Brics chair for 2023, is scheduled to host Brazil, China, India, and Russia at the summit in August.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest Putin if he attends the Brics summit – an obligation which doesn’t sit well with the ruling party.
Earlier this month, chairperson of the portfolio committee on international relations and cooperation Supra Mahumapelo said the presidency had established an inter-ministerial committee to deal with the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin.
Have you arrested them?
In a heated debate on BBC’s Hard Talk with Stephen Sackur over the arrest of Putin, Mbalula silenced the host after asking him which leader had been arrested for the Iraq invasion.
The secretary-general also reiterated the country’s non-aligned stance on the Russia-Ukraine war.
“If it was according to the ANC, we would want President Putin to be here even tomorrow. We would welcome him here as part and parcel of Brics, but we know that we are constrained by the ICC, in terms of doing that,” said Mbalula.
“Putin is a head of state, do you think that a head of state can just be arrested anywhere?
“How many crimes have been committed by your country in Iraq? How many crimes have been committed by anyone else who is so vocal today in Iraq and Afghanistan? Have you arrested them? You have not. You are making a lot of noise about Putin instead of working for peace between Ukraine and Russia and you fail to resolve the war.
“Millions of people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and there are no weapons of mass destruction. We know what the war is about between Russia and Ukraine. We want peace, that’s what is important, so that the world can thrive.”
It has been 20 years since former UK prime minister Tony Blair joined US president George W. Bush in launching an invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, without a UN mandate and in defiance of some of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in Britain.
The war was criticised by many as a reckless misadventure when no weapons of mass destruction were found.
In an interview with AFP earlier this year, Blair said Putin should not use Iraq as justification for the Ukraine war.
Saddam, Blair said, had initiated two regional wars, defied multiple UN resolutions and launched a chemical attack on his own people.
Ukraine in contrast has a democratic government and posed no threat to its neighbours when Putin invaded.
“At least you could say we were removing a despot and trying to introduce democracy,” Blair said, speaking at the offices of his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in central London.
“Now you can argue about all the consequences and so on.”
Mbalula: SA not a failed state
Mbalula further told Sackur although South Africa was facing many challenges, to categorise it as a failed state would be an “exaggeration”.
“This conversation comes from the pockets of powerful thinkers in the country who project us as displaying characteristics of a failed state,” he said.
However, if certain things are not resolved, according to Mbalula, “we will become a failed state, but we are not journeying towards that direction”.
“We have been in power for less than 30 years, from 300 years of deprivation and a mismanaged country and the economy. We have been able to cushion our people from the worst in these 30 years and we still regard ourselves as a young democracy.”
Mbalula on elections
Mbalula admitted that while the power crisis will affect the fortunes of the ANC to register an outright majority at the next elections, “it will not take ANC totally out of power”.
“I’ve been heading ANC elections for over a decade. I’ve never gone to an election with the polls being positive about the incumbent. Because of the sins of the incumbency, you will always be affected negatively by the polls.
“On who we will work with in the elections? We’re not working to achieve the results of a coalition.”
Additional reporting by AFP