Cabinet will today consider a recommendation to move the annual Brics summit to China, following a legal opinion by a technical team appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to look into the legal implications of hosting Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Sources familiar with the matter say SA is also considering co-chairing this year’s annual Brics summit with China, a move that would solve the political conundrum of avoiding Putin’s arrest.

Perceptions of SA’s alignment with Russia has roiled markets, sending the rand to its weakest levels in history, and has set the country on a diplomatic collision course with key trading partners.

In recent weeks, Ramaphosa moved to limit the damage due to such perceptions.

Business Day understands that the Inter-Ministerial Committee headed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile, received a legal opinion that SA cannot avoid arresting Putin.

‘This is because as an ICC (International Criminal Court) signatory, SA has an obligation to comply with the warrant of arrest. Also, a legal precedent (was set) when the High Court found that SA violated the Constitution when it failed to arrest (former Sudanese President) Omar al-Bashir when he was in the country,’ according to an official close to the talks.

Another option is moving the annual Brics summit to India because that country is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute.

However, this would not be possible as India is due to host the Group of 20 summit in Delhi in September. 

Business Day notes that the legal opinion, which was received by the committee on Monday from a Brics-appointed technical team looking into the matter, has prompted SA to begin talks with China for Beijing to consider hosting the summit.

During last week’s meeting of Brics Foreign Ministers in Cape Town, International Relations & Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor brushed off suggestions that the summit would be moved from Johannesburg.

Full Business Day report