PORT IN AN INTERNATIONAL STORM
SA set to démarche US ambassador on bombshell Russian ammunition accusations
US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety will face a démarche from the South African government after his accusations that South Africa supplied arms to Russia.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on Friday, said it will call the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety to answer questions, following his accusations that South Africa provided arms to Russia.
This was according to Dirco spokesperson, Clayson Monyela on Twitter:
“Dirco will today démarche the USA Ambassador to South Africa following his remarks yesterday. We’ll issue a detailed statement after the meeting.”
A démarche is a formal diplomatic step to persuade, inform or gather information from a representative of a foreign country.
Monyela said Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor would also speak to her US counterpart, Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday afternoon.
“The National Conventional Arms Control Committee has no record of an approved arms sale by the state to Russia related to the period/incident in question. We, therefore, welcome the inquiry established by HE President Cyril Ramaphosa to establish the facts and role players. If any crimes were committed, the law will take its course,” he said.
The US ambassador to South Africa told journalists on Thursday, that Washington was confident that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Russian cargo vessel Lady R, which docked in Simon’s Town, Cape Town between 6 and 9 December 2022.
“We are confident that weapons were loaded onto that vessel and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” Brigety told journalists in Pretoria.
#SouthAfrica🇿🇦 values the relations we have with the United States of America. They’re cordial, strong, and mutually beneficial.
1. DIRCO will today demarche the USA Ambassador to South Africa following his remarks yesterday. We’ll issue a detailed statement after the meeting.…
— Clayson Monyela (@ClaysonMonyela) May 12, 2023
Read more in Daily Maverick: Lady R in South Africa
His accusations appeared to have pushed the rand to a three-year low against the US dollar, hitting R19.32/$ on Thursday. On Friday morning, the currency weakened as much as 1.6% to 19.5148 per dollar, breaching the all-time low of 19.3508 set during the Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020. It had narrowed losses to 19.2337 by 12:51 p.m. in Johannesburg, according to Bloomberg.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) said on Friday, “the government’s response is unsatisfactory” to Brigety’s accusations, which seemed to trigger the dramatic fall of the rand against the dollar.
“Our economy is already buckling under the severe impact of load shedding which is expected to shave off as much as 2% from the GDP growth forecast for 2023, and any further negative developments will sink us even deeper.
“These allegations, if proven true, will have a significant negative impact on the economy, and will most likely jeopardise our trade relations, in particular our continued access to US markets created under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) which we desperately need,” Busa said in a statement.
Read in Daily Maverick: Rand on the ropes as power crisis, US rate hikes deliver double blow
Brigety said he hoped Pretoria would respond “wholesomely” to the US concerns, so the two countries could focus on strengthening relations, but his accusations have caused a rupture.
Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee reported the ANC was expected to take a hardline stance against the US ambassador’s claims that South Africa had supplied arms to Russia in December last year.
After the ship snuck quietly in the Simon’s Town Naval Base, mysterious and — at the time, unidentified cargo — was loaded on and off the ship in the presence of armed men, and under the convenient cover of rolling Eskom blackouts.
Read in Daily Maverick: Cloak and dagger — the infamous nights Simon’s Town became Vladimir Putin’s town
On Thursday evening, following Brigety’s bombshell accusations, the Presidency broke its silence on the diplomatic quagmire, noting “with concern” his claims alleging the supply by SA of weapons to Russia.
The Presidency has noted with concern remarks attributed to the United States Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben E Brigety, alleging the supply by South Africa of weapons to Russia. https://t.co/7SgHkKqKEX pic.twitter.com/b3htgzPB0c
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) May 11, 2023
“In recent engagements between the South African delegation and US officials, the Lady R matter was discussed and there was agreement that an investigation will be allowed to run its course and that the US intelligence services will provide whatever evidence [is] in their possession.
“It is therefore disappointing that the US Ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public posture that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very positive and constructive engagements between the two delegations,” said Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya in the statement.
The Presidency said the government has undertaken to set up an “independent enquiry to be led by a retired judge.” DM