The ANC government’s fatal support for Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and its refusal to condemn the flagrant abuse of human rights by the invading Russian army has triggered economic consequences for South Africa as Air BP has announced its exit from South African airports. This exit by Air BP could be the beginning of a wider disinvestment from South Africa by businesses from Europe, which is one of our largest trading partners.
In 2022, two Russian planes could not get fuel from large international fuel suppliers at the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) and Cape Town International Airport (CTIA). The fuel suppliers had to adhere to the sanctions imposed on Russia by their countries of origin. To avoid facing this dilemma in future, some suppliers such as Air BP have chosen to vote with their feet and exit South African airports completely. If the ANC government continues with its pro-Russia stance, more suppliers will follow in the steps of Air BP.
Faced with the choice of protecting the South African economy or acquiescing to its comrades in the Kremlin, the ANC government has shown a willingness to impose a heavy economic price on South Africans to protect one man – Vladimir Putin. The ANC government has not only refused to review its stance on Russia, it has doubled down and assured its Russian friends, through the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), that it would adopt a new refueling plan to deal with a scenario “where a sanctioned friend of the South African government needs servicing and refueling”.
ACSA’s ill-advised decision to bypass Western Sanctions on Russia by taking over the refueling of planes and contracting some of that responsibility to PetroSA could have wider ramifications for our aviation industry because neither has the expertise to run such operations at scale. After 4 of the 5 jet fuel refineries were shut down in the country, South Africa has become reliant on imported jet fuel.
The urgent question that should be asked is whether ACSA and PetroSA will be able to manage the complex international jet fuel supply chains in order to ensure a steady supply of jet fuel to South African airports. With the fuel supply challenges that have recently been reported at ORTIA and CTIA, a crisis of confidence could soon emerge across our airport network with dire consequences for the economy.
The ANC government, ACSA and PetroSA should not seek to disrupt South Africa’s aviation sector to appease a Kremlin war monger at the expense of our economy. Putin is now a wanted war criminal and South Africa should not foot the bill for his reckless behavior.