Western Cape Premier Alan Winde
Verbal sparring erupted in the Western Cape legislature after Premier Alan Winde made a passing remark alleging that the African National Congress (ANC) received financial support from Russia.
Winde was responding to questions in the provincial legislature on Thursday over his recent trip to the United States.
The premier lashed out at the ANC after responding to questions posed by the opposition about his trip to the US to make a case for South Africa to remain part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
An irate Winde said: "This relationship is about jobs and the economy, and they don't give a damn about it. It's the Russians that are funding the ANC."
In July, Winde led a provincial government delegation and Wesgro representatives to the US to promote the Western Cape as a trade and investment destination of choice.
Topping the agenda was to reassure the US government that the province remained committed to AGOA, which gives eligible African countries privileged access to the lucrative US market.
If the AGOA benefits fall away, US importers would have to pay duties on South African imports, increasing their prices.
The ANC in the legislature took issue with Winde's visit to the US, alleging that it was for funding purposes.
ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore said: "The visit to the US, besides it being probably for funding purposes for next year's elections, was also based on the desperate attempt to keep old markets."
Winde responded: "We engaged with the US Congress committees and those influential with AGOA. Of course, the meetings were not only about AGOA; we had a whole range of meetings with Amazon, Disney, and Netflix as well."
Winde's visit came in the wake of a group of Democratic and Republican legislators accusing South Africa of deepening its military relationship with Russia over the past year, and asking the White House to move this year's AGOA summit from South Africa – a warning that South Africa looked set to lose its AGOA status.
South Africa has avoided criticising Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and has abstained in several UN votes to condemn the war.
Africa Christian Democratic Party MPL Ferlon Christians defended Winde, saying that the visit to the US was about jobs and protecting the residents of the Western Cape.
"I am sure the ANC would have asked why the premier did not go to the US. Is the ANC against jobs? Is Russia funding your [the ANC] political campaign? Stop this. This was a decision of this house," he said.