It may not be scientifically sound, but one way to judge a person or a country is by looking at their friends. If so, our BRICS membership raises some massive concerns.
Arguably, one of President Jacob Zuma’s greatest achievements was to get we briquettes in South Africa an invitation to join the emerging-markets grouping, the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The founding-four BRIC countries are all major players in terms of their economies, their population, their global footprint. South Africa - as joint authors of an excellent tome on this grouping Chris Hart and Glenn Silverman suggest – is the small ‘s’ in the BRICs.
But at least we in South Africa have free speech, barring the threat of a jail sentence for racist rants.
Unlike, say, China – which has blocked the HBO website after the brilliant satirical presenter John Oliver suggested China's President Xi Jinping vaguely resembles Winnie the Pooh.
Instead of pooh-pooing the joke, Xi lost his cool and made clear – not that this was necessary – that in terms of free speech and other basic human rights, the Chinese are deeply retarded.
Yet President Ramaphosa is planning to welcome Xelot Xe, and the other BRICS bunch, to a Summit in Sandton next month.
My bet is that he won’t be inviting Desmond Tutu’s chum, the Dalai Lama, to deliver the opening address.
Of course, the Russians are busy hosting the Soccer World Cup, which may mean they are slightly less oppressive of human rights, and fewer gays will be intimidated and arrested, fewer political opponents will be gunned down until the final, final whistle is blown.
The Indians and Brazilians may offer slightly better conditions to their dissidents, but they join all their BRICS allies – unfortunately including South Africa – in large-scale corruption.
The justification for the BRICS, when it was founded, was that this grouping of emerging-market economies is needed as a balance to the evil capitalist might of the West.
Difficult to argue with that.
However, while strange bedfellows can be required in dire situations, a permanent alliance has its challenges. Particularly for someone like President Ramaphosa, who is ushering in a new dawn of non-corrupt, clean administration.
For him, the BRICS fellowship may be of some economic and political attraction.
But in terms of reputation, integrity, self-respect, he should tread carefully.
BRICS-it may not be the easy option, but BRICS-stay has its challenges, too.
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