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SA set to démarche US ambassador on bombshell Russian ammunition accusations

SA set to démarche US ambassador on bombshell Russian ammunition accusations
Reuben Brigety, US ambassador to South Africa. (Photo: Supplied)

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.

US ambassador lashes out at ANC government for ‘providing arms and ammunition to Russia’

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.

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. 

“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

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Typical of the cowardly, pathetic and treacherous anc! Instead of dealing with the accusation, that we all know is true, they will hide behind a demarche and lie, distort and try to bully their way out of their disgusting and hypocritical behaviour. This vile government is anything but non-aligned as their actions, not meaningless double-speak words, clearly show. I hope Blinken stands by his ambassador and tells the obnoxious and halfwit Pandor and Manyela exactly where to get off. What a disgraceful embarassment to SA!

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    I’m sure the Honourable ambassador is shaking in his boots. Trade benefits like AGOA are probably getting shredded this very minute.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    This Ambassador should have been sure of the facts before accusing SA of supplying arms and ammunition to Russia aboard the Lady R. Whilst the taxpayer has little faith in the truth coming from the ANC leadership, a foreign representative should be more circumspect and possibly use his diplomatic relationships to ensure that his accusations are well founded. I sincerely hope he is wrong, although there is a case to be made based on the secrecy of this visit and the limited information given to the South African people.

    • Chris Skinner says:

      I’d guess that the US has presented solid evidence to the SA Govt, with a deadline to complete a proper internal investigation and start process of charging the guilty. This move by the US is no knee jerk reaction. Well considered and proper diplomacy in the circumstances given the obfuscation by the Govt.

      • Terry Reynolds says:

        I believe Chris Skinner is correct in his assertion. The ambassador would not have made that statement without US State Dept sanction which would have been based on information from their intelligence agencies.
        I’d suspect the timing of his statement was due to the ANC governments typical lack of urgency and obsfucation in the hope that it would all eventually blow over.

        • Bill Gild says:

          Yes, it WILL blow over – probably within a few news cycles, but the consequences of the imbecilic act by the ANC/SACP will be felt by citizens for a much longer time.

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    A vessel registered to an authoritarian state arrives in a country, berths in a naval base, carries out loading operation’s under darkness and there is zero transparency about the entire affair. Were customs and immigration formalities carried out, or Import/Export formalities followed ?
    Sounds suspicious ? Yes. Sound like the ANC modus operandi ? Yes

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Of course they have the evidence. In true anc DNA, they operate like the thieves and criminals they are, in the dark, which is precisely what happened to that Russian ship at night in Simonstown. This vile anc can fool some of its most idiotic followers, but certainly not the mainstream population or the world. Deny, lie, obfuscate, distort, misinform – Zuma traits that are alive and well in this horrible party. Such arrogance, false pride and false indignation!

  • Bill Gild says:

    Demarche is a noun, not a verb.

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