The United States Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, has offered an “unreserved” apology to the country for his previous allegation that South Africa had sold weapons to Russia. The claim, made on Thursday, stated that a Russian ship had been loaded with ammunition and weapons in Cape Town in December. South Africa denied any knowledge of such an arms sale, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to order an inquiry into the matter.
Following a meeting with the South African foreign ministry, Reuben Brigety expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to correct any misconceptions arising from his public remarks. He reaffirmed the strong partnership between the United States and South Africa and emphasized the important agenda set by their respective presidents.
The situation stemmed from a Russian ship, known as Lady R, docking near Cape Town in December. At that time, local politicians raised questions about whether the ship had been supplied with arms before returning to Russia. South Africa’s compliance with its own Arms Control Act, which prohibits the trade of conventional arms with repressive or aggressive states, would be called into question if the allegations were proven true.
The recent allegations have intensified pressure on the already-struggling South African economy, which has been grappling with power cuts and a weakened currency. Concerns are growing over the potential economic impact should relations with the United States further deteriorate.
South Africa’s historical ties to Russia, stemming from the support it received during the fight against white-minority rule, have generated some sentiment within the ruling African National Congress (ANC). However, many in present-day South Africa have begun to question whether this relationship truly serves the country’s current interests. Experts note that South Africa shares more in common and has a larger trade relationship with the West.
In response to the allegations, a South African cabinet minister criticized what she termed “megaphone diplomacy” and asserted that South Africa should not be coerced by the United States, given that it is the US that has imposed sanctions on Russia.
This incident highlights the delicate balance that South Africa must maintain in its foreign relations. While historical ties and ideological alignments may inform its relationships with other nations, the country must also prioritize its own interests and uphold its own laws and regulations. The apology by the US ambassador may help to ease tensions between the two countries, but the aftermath of this incident will continue to be felt by South Africa in various ways.