The party of security personnel, diplomats, and journalists traveling with the president of South Africa to Russia and Ukraine were stopped by Poland on Friday.
Several African politicians are in Kyiv and Moscow to urge an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine, including the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The team spent more than 24 hours waiting at the airport in Warsaw on a specially chartered aircraft.
According to ABC News, Polish authorities claimed on Friday that the issue related to licenses for firearms.
Ramaphosa’s head of security, Major General Wally Rhoode, blamed racism and sabotage in recordings posted by journalists on social media for his inability to exit the plane.
Rhoode said that the Polish government was endangering Ramaphosa’s life in a video that was published by eNCA journalist Aviwe Mtila. He also indicated that this was the first time he had experienced such a circumstance while traveling on a diplomatic passport. According to Rhoode, the Polish police claimed that their South African counterparts lacked entrance visas.
“They’re holding us up. We might have arrived in Kiev this afternoon, thus they are endangering the life of our president, he stated.
I want you people to see how racially discriminatory they are. We had to put our firearms back because they tried to take them when we started to open our goods.
Ramaphosa’s security detail allegedly did not have authorization for the firearms they were carrying, leading to a standoff, according to the Poland Border Guard agency. Although the incident was called “very unfortunate and deeply regrettable” by the president’s office, it was noted that his security was unaffected.
The Polish agency tweeted on Friday that “Members of the delegation had weapons that they did not have authorization to bring, but they could leave the plane themselves.”
According to Vincent Magwenya, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, “Our officials remain involved with their Polish counterparts in seeking to resolve the situation.”
Maj. Gen. Wally Rhoode, the leader of Ramaphosa’s personal protection team, was there. He alleged that the Polish government treated the delegation hostilely, including strip-searching one of their female colleagues.
From the plane’s stairs, Rhoode informed reporters that Polish officials were being purposefully difficult and had attempted to “confiscate” firearms from them, despite the fact that the weapons were being transported in locked containers in the cargo hold of the aircraft.
Journalists from South Africa who were stranded aboard the aircraft tweeted that they were later instructed to exit and head to customs.
It was unclear if they would be permitted to travel to Kyiv, where Ramaphosa and other African heads of state are scheduled to meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine.
Many in South Africa believed the stalemate was a subliminal message to the nation regarding its non-alignment position on the conflict, which has resulted in diplomatic issues with the West.
A South African woman who accompanied Rhoode during the impromptu press conference claimed that negotiations between the South African and Polish police had taken place for well over 11 hours.
NATO member Poland has criticized Russia for invading its neighbor, Ukraine. NATO is a military organization of 31 member states. South Africa has remained neutral in the conflict, upsetting its trading allies in Washington.
This has been made worse by Pretoria’s confusing statements regarding whether or not it would host Russian President Vladimir Putin in August during the Brics summit of member states Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in light of the ICC’s arrest warrant being issued for him for war crimes.
Four US senators, two each from the Republican and Democratic parties, wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week to express their disagreement with South Africa’s hosting the US-Africa trade meeting due to the country’s position on the conflict. The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which benefits trade concessions with the US, benefits South Africa.
Additionally, the US has charged South Africa with transferring weapons onto a Russian ship in December at the Simon’s Town naval port.
Blinken’s spokesperson Matthew Miller issued a statement in which he claimed that Washington shared congressional concerns about a possible security alliance between Russia and South Africa.
Miller told the Mail & Guardian, “And as good partners do, we have raised those concerns directly with several South African officials.”
However, the South African government has stuck to its non-alignment stance. While Naledi Pandor, Pretoria’s minister of international relations, stressed that Pretoria would not yield to US threats of being expelled from the Agoa pact, Ramaphosa declared he would not be drawn into the conflict.