President Cyril Ramaphosa is backing China in its trade dispute with the United States, after South Africa’s so-called big four telecommunications companies – Cell C, MTN, Telkom, and Vodacom – asked for his help to support Huawei.
In May, US President Donald Trump signed an order which restricted Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from selling their equipment in the US.
The US Department of Commerce also put Huawei on a blacklist which forbids the Chinese tech firm from doing business with American companies.
The Trump Administration claims Huawei represents a security threat and helps Beijing in espionage – charges the company consistently denies.
Huawei has repeatedly denounced the pressure and accusations of spying as a desperate attempt by Washington to preserve its waning dominance over global telecommunications lines.
The ban has significant implications for Huawei, which could include losing support from chip manufacturers and future access to Android updates.
Pretoria Enters The Fray
President Ramaphosa has thrown South Africa’s weight behind China in its ongoing trade war with the US, The Sunday Times reported.
The support for China came after the CEOs of Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, and Telkom asked for the president’s help to deal with the potential negative repercussions of the Huawei ban, the report added.
The CEOs said that Trump’s original ban on Huawei would have threatened the security of a R100-billion infrastructure investment and caused major shock waves for the South African telecommunications sector.
The president was further concerned about the potential effects of the ban on South Africa’s 5G development, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko.
“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’s U-turn 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.
The American president said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to buy “tremendous” amounts of US agricultural products in exchange.
Beijing and Washington plan to restart trade talks that broke down last month, following a meeting between Trump and Xi met at the G-20 Saturday.
President Trump has allowed Huawei to continue business with US tech giants – limited and with strings attached – following his “better than expected” talks with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
China has agreed to purchase “large amounts of agricultural product from our great Farmers” in return for his concessions on Huawei, the US president said, admitting that American big tech was lobbying for the lifting of the ban.
“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.”