The cost of hosting the 15th BRICS Summit was fully justified as it brought to the country great economic benefits, the government said in a statement on Thursday.
The South African government spent over R104 million, or about 48 million US dollars, in hosting the summit this year in July.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in a statement on Thursday made the remark in reaction to the opposition Democratic Alliance claiming that the expenditure on BRICS could have been better spent on addressing the crippling cost of living crisis that South Africans are currently battling.
DA MP Emma Louise Powell, who described the amount as "staggering," said it got even worse when it included an additional R75 million – about 4 million US dollars – spent by the South African Police Service (SAPS) on protecting attendees at the summit, despite most international delegations being accompanied by their respective national security agencies.
"We now know that between SAPS and DIRCO, the three-day BRICS summit cost the South African taxpayer no less than R180 million. This grotesque expenditure is a kick in the teeth for ordinary South Africans who have been left to fend for themselves in a country with one of the highest crime and unemployment rates in the world," she said.
DIRCO said Powell misunderstood the economic benefits of hosting such international conferences and other meetings.
"While it is true that just over R100 million, as reported by DIRCO, was contributed towards the successful hosting of the BRICS Summit, the economic benefits to the City of Johannesburg far outweigh the R100 million DIRCO contributed.
"To illustrate this, South Africa provided courtesy support to only four delegates per country. This is a normal international practice. All the delegations attended with additional accompanying persons and paid fully for their accommodation, meals, etc.
"We even had one delegation with over 100 people, who all were accommodated in a hotel and paid for in full," DIRCO said.
The department referred to the BRICS as the most important collective of emerging nations and said it was South Africa's responsibility as a member state to host the Summit which takes place every five years.
"The list of benefits South Africa gained is endless. Key, among many priorities that South Africa set for itself during the Summit, was to strengthen the partnership between the BRICS members Brazil, Russia, India and China and African countries.
"In this regard, BRICS leaders reiterated their support for the African Union's Agenda 2063. In particular, they supported the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area through economic and financial cooperation between BRICS and African countries," it said.
Addressing issues of poverty, unemployment, and inequality through increased intra-BRICS trade, investment, tourism, capacity building, skills, and technology transfers were the other objectives behind hosting the Summit, DIRCO said.
South Africa's overall trade with its BRICS partners increased 10 per cent every year during 2017-2021.
The total South African trade with BRICS reached R830 billion or 45 billion US dollars in 2022 from R487 billion or 46 billion US dollars in 2017.
Last year, other BRICS nations accounted for 21 per cent of South Africa's global trade.