President Cyril Ramaphosa came out strongly in defence of Chinese telecoms company Huawei on Friday at a conference focussing on the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The president opened the inaugural 4th Industrial Revolution SA - Digital Economy Summit in the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.
Near the end of his address, Ramaphosa turned to what he described as the "standoff between China and the US".
"The United States has been unable to imagine a better future which goes beyond 4 plus 1G, where they have been unable to imagine what 5G can offer, and where now clearly they are jealous," said Ramaphosa.
"They are jealous that a Chinese company called Huawei has outstripped them. And because they have been outstripped they must now punish that one company and use it as a pawn in the fight that they have with China."
Ramaphosa referenced a letter he said he had received from local telecoms companies to say the tussle between China and the US around Huawei is hurting SA.
He said the telecoms companies told him: "We want to go to 5G and only this company Huawei can lead us to 5G and the United States is now punishing them. We have to say we support the company that is going to take our country and indeed the world to better technologies and this is 5G [...] because we cannot afford to have our own economy held back."
Ramaphosa welcomed the fact that, at the recent G20 summit in Japan, China and the US met and the US said it would relax some of the constraints imposed on Huawei.
"It is important that even as there is a trade war, or whatever, it should not spill over to disabling various countries in the world and various peoples in the world […] we want 5G and we know where we can get 5G".