President Cyril Ramaphosa is backing China in its trade war with the United States (U.S.) after South African telecommunications companies asked for his help to support Huawei.
In May, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order which restricted Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from selling their equipment in the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Commerce also put Huawei on a blacklist which forbids it from doing business with American companies.
The Trump Administration said Huawei helps Beijing in espionage and represents a security threat – charges the company denies.
The ban has significant implications on Huawei, which could include losing support from chip manufacturers and future access to Android updates.
South Africa joins the fight
The Sunday Times reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown South Africa’s weight behind China in its ongoing trade war with the United States.
This, the report said, was because the CEOs of Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, and Telkom asked for the president’s help to deal with the potential repercussions of the Huawei ban.
The CEOs said that Trump’s original ban on Huawei would have threatened the security of a R100-billion infrastructure investment and had major repercussions for the South African telecommunications sector.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the president was concerned about the potential effects of the ban on South Africa’s 5G development.
“The president expressed his concern at any efforts to curtail the efforts of Huawei to deliver a comprehensive, and what we believe to be an advanced solution in the telecommunications space,” Diko said.
Huawei’s equipment is used by all South Africa’s major telecommunications companies and it is the most prominent network equipment vendor in the country.
Trump eases restrictions on Huawei
This weekend, Trump said he eased restrictions on Huawei as part of a trade truce with Beijing, removing an immediate threat looming over the global economy.
Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to buy “tremendous” amounts of U.S. agricultural products in exchange.
After Trump and Xi met at the G-20 on Saturday, the two countries plan to restart trade talks that broke down last month.
Trump told reporters he wouldn’t put additional tariffs on China for the “time being,” and that he would allow U.S. companies to supply Huawei.
“U.S. companies can sell their equipment to Huawei,” Trump said. “We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it.”