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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Putin and Bester: The topics that dominated Presidency briefing

The briefing on President Cyril Ramaphosa's public programme was dominated by questions from the media about Vladimir Putin and Thabo Bester.

Spokesperson to the Presidency Vincent Magwenya was bombarded with questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Facebook rapist” and murderer Thabo Bester during a media briefing about Ramaphosa’s public programme at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, on Wednesday.

‘We have this spanner in the works with Putin’

In this file photo, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the first plenary session as part of the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit at the Sirius Park of Science and Art in Sochi, Russia, on 24 October 2019. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/ POOL/ AFP

The 15th Brics summit, where the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will convene, is set to take place in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.

Magwenya was asked about the government’s efforts to find a way to skirt around the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant issued for Putin.

“When South Africa engages, we engage to continue dialogue between Brics countries, but now we have this spanner in the works with Putin,” he said.

Putin is charged with the unlawful transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Magwenya did not confirm a City Press report this week that the government might have to ensure Putin attends the summit remotely to obviate the ICC’s order for his arrest upon his arrival on South African soil.

The spokesperson merely said “government is still working on finding a solution”.

ALSO READ: SA’s stance on Russia could see country lose R400 billion in trade – report

Putin attending BRICS summit? Do not ‘blow matters out of proportion

Vincent Magwenya Cyril Ramaphosa
Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya. Photo: GCIS

Another question asked during the briefing, referred to the Presidency’s confirmation to News24 that Ramaphosa will be sending an envoy to the US to discuss South Africa’s position regarding Russia.

The Presidency spokesperson said the media “should not blow matters out of proportion” by assuming that every discussion with the US involves Russia and the Ukraine.

“This is somewhat of an exaggeration. Of course, the US and other diplomatic partners will continue to raise the question.

“Naturally all Brics members need to attend the summit. Ramaphosa discussed the issue of Putin’s attendance during his recent Ugandan state visit, as well as with his Tanzanian counterpart [President Samia Suluhu Hassan] in March.”

ALSO READ: ‘We know our friends’: Malema slams ICC ‘hypocrisy’ over Putin arrest warrant

Magwenya failed to provide a possible time frame for the repatriation of convicted murderer and “Facebook rapist” Thabo Bester, saying a delegation has arrived in Tanzania this week.

According to the spokesperson, Ramaphosa is fully aware of the Bester saga and is confident the notorious criminal will be brought back to South Africa when the Tanzanian legal system around repatriation has run its course.

Bester, his accomplice girlfriend, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, and Mozambican national Zakaria Alberto were arrested in Arusha, Tanzania, after a high-speed chase last Friday.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester and Dr. Nandipha Magudumana arrested in Tanzania

In response to questions about Bester’s escape from Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein in May 2022, Magwenya said Ramaphosa was “disturbed” that such an incident was allowed to happen.

The president however felt encouraged that these failures were followed by a rapid response resulting in several arrests. This points to the country’s “robust justice system” and should be viewed as “an opportunity to rebuild the state at all levels”.

ALSO READ: WATCH LIVE: G4S explains Thabo Bestor’s prison escape blunder to Parliament

The week ahead: President Ramaphosa’s public programme

  • 12 April: President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted a virtual meeting this morning, with several business leaders representing key sectors of the economy, to discuss ongoing interventions to maximise inclusive economic growth, inspire confidence and create jobs.
  • 12 April: Meeting with organised labour on national ports and rail to discuss the state of the country’s logistics system, including the declining performance of the freight rail network.
  • 12 April: The president will attend a dinner tonight with investors who will be part of the South African Investment Conference.
  • 13 April: Ramaphosa will open and address the South African Investment Conference, which attracts delegates from varying industries in South Africa and across the globe. Over the last four years the investment conference has realised about R1.14 trillion in investment commitments.
  • 14 April: Meeting with directors-general from across all national government departments to lead government’s re-building of a capable state and to ensure improved service delivery.
  • 16 April: Address to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Business Forum in Cape Town. The forum will discuss a number of themes such as the economic potential of the “One African Market”, the challenges, and especially the opportunities for trade.
  • 18 April: Meeting with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) at Union Buildings, in Pretoria.
  • 19 April: Meeting with the Presidential Climate Commission. The commission will present its recommendations to the President following consultations on the electricity plan and Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP).