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ANC’s Mbalula smooths over Lady R diplomatic rift between SA and US

ANC’s Mbalula smooths over Lady R diplomatic rift between SA and US
From left: US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety. (Photo: Supplied) | ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

The ANC would not push for the expulsion of the US ambassador to South Africa. This comes after the diplomat berated the governing party and questioned its international relations policy.

After mulling over comments made by American ambassador Reuben Brigety on 11 May, the ANC has chosen not to be swayed by its alliance partner, the SA Communist Party, which called for him to be booted out of the country.

The ruling party decided to send Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula and First Deputy Secretary-General Nomvula Mokonyane to engage with Brigety this week.

“We have not ventured into the expulsion of the Ambassador,” Mbalula said on Monday.

The decision comes after the party’s National Working Committee meeting, which was held in Durban.


Speaking to the media at the Archie Gumede Conference Centre in Mayville on Monday, Mbalula gave the impression that there was no bad blood between South Africa and the US:

“In our view, a diplomat must understand, especially a superpower like the US, the separation between party approach and government. We had a briefing from the envoy with security adviser Sydney Mufamadi about our government engagement in the US and we were quite delighted with the engagement. We  were taken aback by the comments of the ambassador, for which he apologised.”

Brigety caused an outcry last week when he accused the ANC of “hostility” towards America. The US ambassador said America was “confident” that South Africa had supplied arms to Russia in a clandestine operation at Simon’s Town last December.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA set to démarche US ambassador on bombshell Russian ammunition accusations 

During a briefing by the ANC’s international relations subcommittee head, Mokonyane was tight-lipped about the situation when addressing the media at the party’s headquarters last Friday. While she could not give an outright response on where the ANC stood on the matter, she was adamant that the party stood by its 55th conference resolution – one that Brigety noted had criticised the US for its supposed role in provoking the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Mokonyane said the government was “reflecting on” Brigety’s comments.

“Already you have seen our government has responded through the Presidency… Secondly, we as the ANC are going to respond in detail to these matters. Our resolutions remain as they are,” said Mokonyane. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: The landing of a sanctioned Russian plane at Waterkloof undermines Mufamadi’s US mission

At the press conference where the American ambassador dropped the bombshell allegation that SA had provided weapons to Russia, he also bemoaned the contents of ANC policy documents on the Russia-Ukraine war. He said the document portrayed the US in a negative light.

The ANC resolution notes that the US appears to be implementing the so-called “Wolfowitz Doctrine”, named after a former US Under-Secretary of Defence who advocated for the containment of rivals. It is said to underpin US policy on Russia and China.

The ANC expressed the view that all conflicts should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy. It called on countries that are a part of the African Union to remain non-aligned.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine has far-reaching strategic geopolitical and economic consequences for the peoples of the world. This can no longer be described simply as a Russia-Ukraine war – it is primarily a conflict between the US and US-led Nato and Russia…

“According to this doctrine, the US should not allow any country in the world to have the possibility, in the post-Cold War period, to challenge US interests, especially its hegemony. In this regard, US geopolitical strategy has identified Russia and China as the two powers that must be contained, according to the Wolfowitz Doctrine which undergirds US foreign policy,” the ANC document reads.

Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee reports that South Africa has a long-standing political relationship with the US. The Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa) provides duty-free access for 1,800 products from certain African countries to the vast US market. Republican Party representatives want Washington to use Agoa benefits as leverage against South Africa’s stance on the Ukraine war.

Also importantly, the US funds the Aids antiretroviral drug programme through its Pepfar programme. It is the US’s most extensive communicable disease-fighting programme yet, and is essential to hundreds of thousands of South Africans living with HIV and Aids.

After Brigety’s claims, President Cyril Ramaphosa decided to institute an independent inquiry to determine whether SA loaded weapons and ammunition on to the sanctioned Russian vessel, Lady R, in Simon’s Town in December last year. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rae Earl says:

    The ANC seems to be seriously rudderless and drifting in confused circles. Naledi Pandor condemned Russia the minute she heard of their invasion of Ukraine. Then suddenly she started demanding that Ukraine should negotiate with Russia and not fight to protect their citizens against slaughter. And now Mbalula appears to be inferring that when the SA government screws up it should not be seen as an ANC problem. But the ANC is, basically, the government. Does that mean that they can play roulette by bouncing bad decisions backwards and forwards between party and government to make sure that neither ever carries any blame? Eish, I’m confused…

    • dylan smith says:

      Me too, sadley we are entering the African standard of mega coookup, where no matter what decision is made by the oligarchs the sheep follow willing or unwilling. Who knows, we may break the norm and change our future with the very thing thing the ANC fought for. But truly it seems far fetched and one has the feeling it may be the last chance our democracy gets to change.

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