Social Justice versus the Diplomacy Game

The annual BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre attracted much hype and generally affirming media coverage. Part of the reason for relentless positivity towards the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) alliance is press coverage in the country’s leading newspaper chain arranged by Iqbal Survé.  As head of the Independent newspapers as well as the BRICS Business Council, his own picture appears regularly on his front pages, pronouncing on the enormous value of BRICS to South Africa.

Debate amongst academics and civil society has been intense, especially on whether engagement in official processes amounts to a legitimation of BRICS rulers. For critics, the governance credentials of China, India, Russia and Brazil are appalling, along with widespread corporate corruption, exploitative economic trade and investment strategies, and the world’s most severe pollution, including greenhouse gases.

Disappointingly, most of the pro-BRICS analysis is lukewarm at best and at worst sycophantic. Last week, Rev Lawrence Ndlovu’s Daily Maverick opinion piece refers to the “special friendship between BRICS nations”, leaving human rights violations papered over with the throwaway remark, “the sovereignty of each country should never be seen to be compromised.” This parrots South African BRICS Sherpa Anil Sooklal’s diplomatic patter over the last few months at various BRICS events held in the lead up to the Summit.

The theme for the BRICS Summit 2018,…

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