South Africa


US won’t sanction South Africa over weapons row, Godongwana says

US won’t sanction South Africa over weapons row, Godongwana says
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana at a press briefing before his 2023 Budget Speech in Parliament on 22 February 2023. (Photo: GCIS)

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana says South Africa had resolved a row with the US over allegations that Pretoria had supplied weapons to Russia and it is unlikely to face any repercussions. 

A furore erupted on 11 May when US ambassador to South Africa Ruben Brigety told journalists that armaments were collected by a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, from the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December. The government denied the accusation and criticised Brigety for going public with it.

The Americans first raised their concerns about the matter two months ago, and President Cyril Ramaphosa asked his security adviser and an independent judge to investigate and dispatched a delegation to the US to ease tensions, Godongwana said.

“A number of actions were taken in order to ensure that our relationship with the US remains and that relationship should be normal and cordial,” he said in an interview in Cape Town on Sunday. “The Americans are not likely to respond with any anger tomorrow.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Everything we know about the Lady R

The rand slumped to its weakest level on record against the dollar and yields on government bonds soared last week amid investor concern that any escalation in the diplomatic row may put trade worth billions of dollars at risk.

The market reaction “could have a massive disruption to our fiscal framework,” and a recovery in the rand and the nation’s bonds will depend on whether investors are comforted that the issue has been resolved, Godongwana said. “Once people realize that the matters raised by the ambassador have been dealt with, I think that things are going to stabilize.”

Relations between South Africa and the US have soured over Pretoria’s insistence that it’s taken a non-aligned stance toward Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Brigety’s comments exacerbated the tensions, with South Africa’s government expressing “utter displeasure with his conduct.” The ambassador had been summoned to explain his remarks and “admitted that he crossed the line and apologized unreservedly,” it said.

Partnership pledge

Both sides later pledged partnership and a commitment to working together, yet neither addressed the veracity of his claim that South Africa had sent weapons to Russia.

Brigety said in a tweet that he was grateful for the chance to “correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks” and a State Department spokesperson didn’t dispute Pretoria’s characterization of his statement as an apology.

Godongwana said all South African weapons sales had to be vetted by a cabinet committee, and no official decision had been taken to supply Russia.

“If it did happen as the Americans claim, it could be a conduct of people who were mischief makers,” he said. “People who have got that information must provide that information to the judge so that we can take the necessary action.”


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Louis Potgieter says:

    AGOA loss is a foregone conclusion.

    • sanele says:

      Agoa is not a one sided benefit. Americans also benefit format. So maybe not.

    • sanele says:

      Markets will adjust to the noise eventually. Short -term reaction is normal and always brings us panic. This does does not negate need for foreign policy clarity.

      • Jane Crankshaw says:

        It is now strikingly obvious that Russia has promised the ANC an election win by technological interference in exchange for money ie tenders from which the ANC can feed – starting with the Kapowerships that are suddenly back on the Agenda! Watch with interest as Erdegon wins the Turkish election this month!

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      It’s definitely more likely than not. Elsewhere Ramokgopa has stated that we lost 650,000 jobs in 2022 due to load shedding and we’re on course to lose 850,000 (not clear if this is cumulative or an additional 850k) due to load shedding. There are 80,000-odd people employed in the automotive industry, many of whom would be retrenched if AGOA is lost, as well as potentially large job losses in the wine and fruit industries, steel sector etc. Even without officially losing AGOA benefits, consumers in the US and Europe may boycott our products – again – causing long-term damage.

      South Africa is at a dangerous tipping point and the ANC thinks it’s time to swagger the global stage poking the big bear. The ANC hates ordinary South Africans, or would do if they could be bothered to even consider them.

      • Colin Louw says:

        The automotive losses are going to pale when considering the fruit and wine export losses if the SS (Sinking Ship) SA gets booted from AGOA and the USA puts a little pressure on Europe to follow because they are really pissed with SS SA – and that idiot Godongwana wouldn’t really have a clue as to where we stood in relation to the USA right now! Sending a seriously challenged individual like Mufumadi to repair the rift might actually have exacerbated the stuffed relationship! So get ready for a million new folk out of a job and a 2% hit to the GDP. Lets see who’s right in 6 months

  • William Kelly says:

    Which means we’re going to get smashed by not only by losing AGOA but sanctions too.

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