South Africa's president insists it's not up to Washington to determine his country's diplomatic ties
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged the US to not "punish" African nations by pressuring them to cut ties with Moscow, pointing to legislation passing through Congress which calls for more US intervention on the continent.
After meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke with reporters about the bill, the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, saying the measure "will harm Africa and marginalize the continent."
"We should not be told by anyone who we can associate with," he added, noting South Africa's long-held policy of non-alignment among world powers.
Though the two leaders exchanged pleasantries during their sit-down and did not mention the Russia legislation - as detailed in the White House readout of the discussion - Ramaphosa separately spoke with the Congressional Black Caucus during his visit and again offered criticism of the bill.
South Africa is "concerned [about] the possible implications for the African Continent if the 'Countering Malign Russian Activities Bill' were to become US law," he said, adding that it could have "the unintended consequence of punishing the continent for efforts to advance development and growth."
Pretoria considers both Washington and Moscow to be "strategic partners," the president continued, urging American lawmakers not to "punish those who hold independent views," especially at a time when "President Biden has sought to engage African countries on the basis of respect for their independence and sovereignty."
However, US policymakers have insisted the bill does not propose any punishments for African states that opt to continue ties with Russia, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying "the United States isn't making anybody choose between us and somebody else, either when it comes to Ukraine or in the Indo-Pacific region."
"Broadly speaking, there's no punishment here intended for anybody," Kirby told reporters on Friday, adding "We respect sovereignty."