South Africa

DIPLOMATIC SNAGS

Another snag in appointing US ambassador to SA

New US ambassador-designate, Lana Marks (https://www.lanamarks.com)

The 31 month-long vacancy in the US ambassadorship in Pretoria is set to continue as President Donald Trump’s nomination for the job hits another obstacle.

US President Donald Trump nominated South Africa-born Florida businesswoman Lana Marks for US Ambassador almost a year ago. Last month she appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing and was approved by the committee for the Pretoria posting.

But the full US Senate has not yet confirmed her, as it must.

However, several other diplomats who appeared with Marks at the committee hearing have been approved by the full Senate and are en route to their new postings. These include Jessye Lapenn, who has been acting US ambassador in Pretoria since January 2017, when the previous ambassador Patrick Gaspard vacated the post after Trump’s victory in the November 2016 presidential elections. Gaspard was appointed by former US President Barack Obama.

Lapenn has been confirmed as the new US ambassador to the African Union and will be leaving Pretoria for Addis Ababa next month. Her successor as deputy ambassador to South Africa, David Young, is to arrive at about the same time.

Lapenn and others were confirmed by the full Senate just before it went into recess. But Marks will have to wait at least until the Senate returns from recess next month.

The US Embassy declined to comment on the reasons for the delay in appointing Marks to the Pretoria job. Other diplomatic sources said the White House and the US State Department were still fully behind Marks’s nomination, so the hold-up seems to be in the US Senate.

The sources said even though the Senate is controlled by Trump’s Republican Party, it was not unusual for a senator, or a group of senators, to hold up the confirmation of an official appointment, usually to try to extract some political concession in exchange.

One observer suggested that such senators might have used the pretext that Marks was a political appointment. She has no diplomatic or other government experience. She is a friend of Trump from Florida and owns a company making and selling luxury handbags.

At her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marks offered her particular knowledge of South Africa and her proven business experience as reasons why she should get the Pretoria post. DM

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