Rabat – “The struggle of the Sahrawi people for freedom and independence is our struggle,” said President of South Africa.
During a speech on the 107 anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa showed full support for the separatist group of the Polisario Front.
The president said that his country stands “alongside the Polisario Front and the leaders of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in their struggle for full sovereignty over all their territory.”
He also reiterated support for the AU and the UN to “end the last colony on the African continent.”
Ramaphosa’s controversial statement might increase diplomatic tension between Rabat and Pretoria.
The unfriendly relationship between the two countries dates back to 2004 when Morocco’s Ambassador to South Africa left the country when Pretoria recognized the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Ever since, South Africa has turned into one of the most vocal supporters of the Polisario. Pretoria has joined forces with Algeria to thwart all Moroccan efforts and initiatives to reach a mutually accepted political solution to the conflict in line with the UN-led political process initiated in April 2007.
After more than 13 years of tension, the two countries agreed to end their diplomatic tension after King Mohammed VI met former South African President, and have both expressed desire to build a more prosperous and interdependent Africa.
When King Mohammed VI received then South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, on the sidelines of the 5th African Union-European Union summit in November 2017, analysts hoped that meeting would end the animosity between the two countries and help them open a new chapter in their frosty bilateral relations.
Those hopes, however, were dashed with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, a long-time Polisario supporter.
Rabat has not responded to a request from Pretoria to accept a South African ambassador.
In November 2018, South Africa’s government said that it is up to Morocco to appoint an ambassador, claiming that Rabat has not yet responded to an agreement request to exchange new ambassadors made years ago.
In the 2026 World Cup bid, South Africa showed anti-Moroccan sentiment when a sport official said that her country will not vote for Morocco’s bid due to its political agenda. South Africa broke the African consensus around the Moroccan bid and voted in favor of the US-Canada-Mexico bid last June.