Beginning today, South Africa will participate in a joint military exercise with Russia and China that critics claim amounts to a support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The 10-day naval exercises, which will go on during the anniversary of the war in Ukraine, have drawn criticism from the US as well.
However, South Africa's government claims that it maintains its neutral stance in the conflict and that it frequently hosts similar exercises with other nations, such as France and the US.
In the Indian Ocean, off the coast of South Africa, are the Mosi II naval drills.
There will be 350 participants, according to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Russia has declared that it will send the warship Admiral Gorshkov, which is equipped with Zircon hypersonic missiles. They can travel 1,000 km (620 miles) at nine times the speed of sound. .
Denys Reva from South Africa's Institute for Security Studies claims that Moscow "will be trying to show that despite its setbacks in the war in Ukraine, its armed forces are still very powerful.".
The SANDF has not released many details about the upcoming exercise, but a joint drill between the three nations in 2019 involved seven ships, including a warship from each nation as well as fueling and survey ships.
They worked on fighting coastal fires and floods as well as retaking ships from pirates.
In January, a White House spokesman stated: "The United States has concerns about any country. While Russia is waging a brutal war against Ukraine, we are exercising with Russia. ".
South Africa previously voted against the invasion in a UN vote. Additionally, it declined to impose sanctions against Russia alongside the US and Europe.
In Cape Town, the Nord superyacht, which is associated with the sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov, was permitted to dock.
Also permitted to unload supplies at a South African naval base was the sanctioned Russian cargo ship Lady R. It included a delayed order for ammunition, according to the government.
South Africa notes that since 2011, it has participated in four joint exercises with the US as well as drills with France and Germany.
When Sergey Lavrov, her Russian counterpart, visited her nation in January, Naledi Pandor, her foreign minister, said that "all countries conduct military exercises with friends throughout the world.".
It would be "an abuse of international practice," she claimed, to try to prevent South Africa from holding joint military drills with the nations of its choosing.
According to Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, executive director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, South Africa is also participating due to the underfunding and overstretched nature of its armed forces.
Priorities for the navy include defending domestic fisheries and battling piracy in the Indian Ocean.
To be able to combat issues off its coast, such as piracy, she says, "it needs to collaborate with other countries.".
Additionally, Russia and South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) have a long history of cooperation.
According to Dr. Alex Vines of the London-based Chatham House think tank, these go back to the period of white minority rule prior to 1994.
He claims that because Moscow consistently supported their struggle, "the older ANC leaders still have an emotional attachment to Moscow.". Because of this, it would be very difficult for South Africa to support Russia over Ukraine. ".
Due to their membership in the Brics alliance, Russia, China, and South Africa also have contemporary ties.
The group, which also includes Brazil and India, includes some of the top emerging economies in the world.
The exercise this year, according to Ms. Sidiropoulos, will benefit Russia more than anyone else.
"It demonstrates that Russia still has allies throughout the world and the ability to project its power far away.
It enables them to assert that not everyone on earth is hostile to Russia. Russia's only adversary is the West. " .
According to Dr. Vines, China is eager to keep shipping lanes open for commercial ships sailing from its ports to African destinations.
In the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa, it also wants to establish its naval dominance.
It has to do with sending its navy into international waters.
China already uses Djibouti on the coast of East Africa as a naval base to fight piracy, and it's possible that it wants to establish more bases there.