SA-US relationship built on mutual respect and cooperation

Monday, March 25, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged that the relationship between South Africa and the United States has recently received a great deal of attention due to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In his weekly newsletter, the President assured citizens that strengthening ties between the two countries was among the important issues discussed by the International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, during her working visit to Washington last week, where she met with United States officials.

“The topic also featured prominently in a meeting that I had in Cape Town last month with a bipartisan delegation from the US Congress,” he wrote in his weekly letter. 

He also touched on the US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act, which seeks to review the bilateral relationship between the two nations amid geopolitical differences that was discussed last week in the US House of Representatives’ committee. 

The discussion, President Ramaphosa wrote, provides an opportunity to clarify South Africa’s positions and to correct misperceptions about the Republic's foreign policy.  

“An important starting point for that discussion is that since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has sought, through its foreign policy, to promote peace, security and development on the African continent and across the world.” 

Consistent with history, he said South Africa has taken a non-aligned position in its international relations. 

“We have deliberately avoided aligning our country with any of the major powers or blocs. Rather, we have sought to forge cordial relations with all countries. While we have taken a non-aligned position, we continue to pursue positions that are in keeping with the UN [United Nations] Charter.” 

He emphasised that South Africa has aimed to promote an inclusive and representative global order, strengthen multilateralism, and resolve conflicts through dialogue.

“It is in pursuit of this approach that South Africa has worked to strengthen relations with countries around the world, including the US.

“Our relationship with the US is characterised by mutual respect and a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue even on issues where we may differ.” 

Shifting his focus to subjects such as the docking of a Russian ship in Simonstown in late 2022, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the current conflict in Gaza, President Ramaphosa said the South African and United States governments have been able to share views in a frank and open manner. 

“We have encouraged greater understanding and cooperation between ourselves as South Africa, the United States and many other countries on matters of mutual interest.” 


On the conflict in Gaza, the President acknowledged that this area has been “contentious”. 

“One of the areas of contention on which there has been much commentary, as well as much misinformation, is the position that South Africa has taken on the conflict in Gaza.”

This follows a case that South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where the country argued that the actions of the Israeli military in Gaza violate international law and actions prohibited under the Genocide Convention, to which South Africa, Israel and many other countries are signatories.  

“We have always supported the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians to self-determination and statehood, and of the state of Israel to peace and security.” 

In the same breath, he said South Africa has condemned the “atrocities” committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians on 7 October last year and called for the release of hostages. 

“We continue to call for an immediate ceasefire, the urgent provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and meaningful negotiations towards a lasting solution.

“These are positions that are increasingly being taken up by more and more countries around the world. The suggestion that the position we have taken on the conflict could lead to a deterioration of our relations with the United States is therefore unfounded,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President said South Africa has strong economic, political and social ties with the United States and over the last three decades, the two nations continue to have a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship.  


He also expressed his gratitude to America for supporting South Africa in its fight against HIV and AIDS.

“The PEPFAR [US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] programme has contributed significantly – and continues to contribute – to the remarkable progress we have made to deal with AIDS.” 


On investments, President Ramaphosa said South Africa is home to more than 600 American companies and that the United States is the second largest destination for South African exports. 

He also highlighted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants qualifying African countries duty-free access to the United States market for their exports.  

He said the recent AGOA forum held in Sandton last year confirmed its value to Africa’s industrialisation and integration and the diversification of its economies. 

President Ramaphosa also welcomed the United States participation in the Just Energy Transition partnership alongside a growing number of other countries. 

“There is great potential to further develop our relationship with the United States and to find ways to work together for a more peaceful, stable and just world. 

“South Africa will continue to seek firm and friendly relations with countries around the world in pursuit of a better world,” he said. –