Episode 80 – Another BRIC(S) in the Wall with Hannah Woolaver and Allan Ngari

With a potential visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to South Africa in August this year, we explore the legal and political debates about arrests of heads of state, immunities and how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is going down in Africa.

Putin’s visit would be as part of a BRICS summit – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Both Brazil and South Africa are members of the International Criminal Court and therefore – according to ICC judges – would be obliged to arrest Putin on their territory, because he has a warrant of arrest out against him for war crimes. Check here our podcast on those charges.

Since we recorded the podcast African heads of state have visited both Ukraine and Russia to try to negotiate a peace deal, but without any appearance of success. South Africa says it is non-aligned, but there’s certainly a traditional loyalty in Pretoria to the old USSR which was on the right side in opposing the old apartheid state. But anti-colonial prisms cut both ways, showing Moscow as the aggressor against Ukraine.

We got Hannah Woolvar of the University of Cape Town and Allan Ngari of Human Rights Watch Africa to thrash out the current trends, and to give us the context of the last time South Africa was caught in this dilemma. Back in 2015, then Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was visiting as part of an African Union summit and was bundled out of the country as the courts told the government that it had to follow the law.

For recommendations, Allan chose Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and former ICJ judge, Thomas Buergenthal’s autobiography The Lucky Child was chosen by Hannah. It’s the next book in our Patreon Bookclub, so do join us over there to hear our review.


This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.