Shambolic BRICS Parliamentary Forum a national embarrassment

Issued by Emma Louise Powell MP – DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation
29 Sep 2023 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by Emma Louise Powell MP.

The 9th BRICS Parliamentary Forum held in Johannesburg this week has been marred by rank ANC incompetence, calling into question South Africa’s credibility as a reliable partner within the expanding bloc.

The ANC’s complete disregard for professionalism, time-keeping, and organisation, combined with underwhelming representation from several key member countries has rendered the Forum little more than an anti-Western propaganda talk-shop.

Whilst more than 45 Members of the South African Parliament were required to attend the Forum, Russia was represented by a single delegate, Vice-Speaker of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev. Kosachev, who is sanctioned by numerous countries throughout the world, failed to arrive aboard his scheduled flight on Tuesday 26th, belatedly opting to address the Forum via video link from the safety of his Kremlin boardroom. Kosachev’s failure to attend the Forum is a stark reminder of the diplomatic isolation that Russia continues to navigate as a result of their illegal invasion of Ukraine.

The Speaker of Iran’s National Consultative Assembly, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf (and his male-only delegation) departed the Forum shortly after delivering a vitriolic diatribe against the West as part of his opening remarks. Qalibaf called on BRICS to counter NATO expansionism and usher in a return to “moral principles and spiritualism”. Qalibaf’s controversial past as Iran’s Chief of Police and Commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Air Force was marked by high-profile corruption scandals, and raises questions about the suitability of such partners to democratic South Africa.

Notably, refusals by big business to provide sponsorships to the Forum underscores growing concerns within the business community about the ANC’s association with Russian warlords and theocratic dictators. Out of the 13 companies approached for sponsorship, 12 either declined or failed to respond to requests, with significant players such as Volkswagen, Telkom, and Nedbank amongst them. This signals an emerging trend by corporates to distance themselves from South Africa’s BRICS association.

The extravagant gala dinner, intended to be a showcase of unity and camaraderie, experienced severe delays with India and Iran failing to attend, and only a handful of Chinese representatives showing face later on in the evening. The absence of Saudi Arabia and Brazil’s limited delegation further exacerbated the notable disinterest in this shambolic event by member states.

Crucially, members of the South African Parliamentary delegation were not provided with any opportunity to make representations towards commitments contained in a Memorandum of Understanding that will be signed by respective Parliaments upon conclusion. This is an ANC memorandum, it is not a representative Parliamentary Memorandum.

While the BRICS Parliamentary Forum has sought to project an image to the media of a united and ascendent new bloc on the international stage, the situation on the ground has been jarringly different. The truth is that despite lofty rhetoric, if participation is a measure of success, BRICS is by all accounts on life support.

The DA will be submitting urgent questions to Parliament requesting a full breakdown of delegates and costs which will be released to the public in coming days.

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