LETTER: When national interest trumps morality
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is deplorable but buying its oil would have vital benefits for South Africans — especially the poor
Michael Avery’s column (“Brics bank on Russian oil”, June 19) refers. I respectfully disagree with his criticism of mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe who proposed we consider buying the country’s oil.
I deplore Russia’s unlawful, barbaric invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in horrific human pain that has been compounded by war crimes. Regrettably, however, in this case there is a justifiable need for poverty to trump morality. The minister’s “anti-imperialist” rhetoric is irrelevant.
Mantashe expressed “the idea” of buying oil from Russia to reduce the price of fuel. A “procurement process” must be followed, which implies that our ability to refine the oil will be taken into account. The minister’s thinking isn’t “crude”, it is “refined”.
Avery’s one-sided column failed to take into account the persuasive arguments in support of buying Russian oil at a reduced price. There are economic and social benefits that would flow from the reduced price, which will result in price reductions for a vast number of goods and services, including transport, food, clothing and electricity.
The biggest beneficiaries will be the poor, who need bread, not morals. In any event, the quantity of oil SA would purchase is insignificant, and would have no effect on the Russian economy. China has just announced that it has bought $7.5bn of Russian energy.
Sadly, but realistically, national self-interest is justified in this case; SA can't afford the financial cost of being the conscience of the free world. Germany and Austria have just announced that they will bring old coal power plants back online because Russia has cut gas supplies. No doubt coal mining will continue by the two countries in their national interest, notwithstanding the Paris Agreement and the green movement.
If SA is able to refine the oil, I urge government to urgently do the necessary to open the taps.
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