By Siki Dlanga
The South African Rand is still to recover since US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben E. Brigety II, made explosive allegations against the South African government with accusations of supplying Russia with weapons. SA struggles to keep the lights on with threats of a national blackout due to the highly politicized Eskom power station problems which prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to increase his already over-bloated cabinet with a Minister of Electricity. This is not a nation that is enjoying a surplus of resources. These allegations were outlandish and often described as typical American shock doctrine and an attempt to force South Africa out of its peace-making position in the Russia-Ukraine war and take America’s position.
I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Foreign Minister Pandor this evening and correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks. In our conversation, I re-affirmed the strong partnership between our two countries & the important agenda our Presidents have given us.— Ambassador Reuben Brigety (@USAmbRSA) May 12, 2023
In an unprecedented undiplomatic public stunt, the US Ambassador undermined all diplomatic channels to address the issue and created a crisis that not only sank the South African currency – but sank the Namibian currency by virtue of its proximity to South African borders. The Namibian decried that the Namibian dollar crashed along the Rand to a record low minutes after Ambassador Brigety’s careless public show.
When the ambassador first landed in the country, he was flooded with welcoming messages; after his public address, he was flooded with unforgiving messages. Social media users reduced the ambassador to his bowtie, calling for the Bowtie to be recalled and returned to the United States. Bowtieman was the kindest name he was called. Political parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters have made public calls for the ambassador to be recalled for undermining the sovereignty of South Africa. African citizens called it the general behavior of Western representatives in African countries. The allegations of loading weapons to Lady R however pitted South Africa against superpowers with South Africa’s white-led leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, siding with the US Ambassador’s statements.
Dr. Naledi Pandor, International Relations and Cooperation minister, promptly met with Ambassador Brigety to deal with the diplomatic disaster he had created. She also called his superior, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who later that day issued a statement reiterating the U.S. – South Africa strategic partnership. This however did nothing to restore the South African currency.
The meeting between USA Ambassador to South Africa @ReubenBrigety and @DIRCO_ZA— Clayson Monyela (@ClaysonMonyela) May 12, 2023
took place this afternoon. We conveyed our displeasure with his conduct and he admitted that he crossed the line and apologised unreservedly. The relations between the USA & South Africa are cordial,… pic.twitter.com/5pBxTgyI82
The meeting of Ambassador Brigety with Minister Pandor as captured in an image posted by SA Deputy Director-General: Public Diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, appeared like a meeting of Killmonger with Wakanda Aunty after he burnt Wakanda herbs. The significance of burning the herbs of Wakanda have little significance to an American but are heart-breaking to an African – not only because they are burnt – but because of who burnt them. Minister Pandor was as displeased with the manner of Brigety’s address as South Africa was. South Africans are not the same. The DA opposition leader, John Steenhuisen is that difference. He continued to peddle the unproven claims that were made by Brigety on CNN. This is after Blinken had issued a statement from the Department of State reaffirming the strategic relationships with South Africa. This is after the meeting with Minister Pandor and Ambassador Brigety who was reported to have apologized to South Africa according to the report after their meeting even though no statement from Brigety’s office issued a clear enough apology. The ambassador’s apology was confirmed and restated by the African National Congress today after their meeting with Ambassador Brigety to clarify his accusatory public address against the ANC and the SA government.
So, let's fill in some gaps & close this matter. @USAmbRSA & us are keen to move on. The relations between our two countries are strategic and far too important.— Clayson Monyela (@ClaysonMonyela) May 13, 2023
1. In our meeting we reminded Ambassador Brigety that government's National Conventional Arms Control Committee is…
Steenhuisen, the opposition leader appeared on international news to accuse SA and the ANC, the current government, of supplying Russia with weapons at 6:24 pm South African time. Without any evidence, Steenhuisen, further implicates SA, calling South Africa “complicit” in the murder of Ukrainians. Steenhuisen mentioned during this interview that he had been to Washington D.C. to persuade America regarding South Africa’s position in the Russia-Ukraine. Russia has since written to the US Ambassador undermining South Africa’s ability to provide arms to their country and therefore making the idea laughable.
Spoke today with Minister Pandor about the vital U.S.-South Africa relationship. We discussed further strengthening our partnership to advance shared global priorities. https://t.co/qdby4xx2E9— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 12, 2023
The act by the DA to accuse South Africa of an act of war without proof given the gravity of the consequences of such an act is treasonous. What must be understood is that this opposition party takes a different position to the government. The government of South Africa insists on diplomatic forms of conflict resolution. South African delegates have done sterling work across the continent and beyond in resolving conflicts through diplomacy. South Africa has rejected every insistence by the global community to take sides between Ukraine and Russia because South Africa was supported by the Soviet Union to end apartheid while the United States and Nato countries did the opposite. SA has a moral obligation not to participate in violence or war in this war but to wage peace. SA has insisted on peace. SA achieved the current democracy which the DA enjoys precisely because the ANC leaders chose to go the way of peace, not the war Steenhuisen and the DA have chosen. The DA represents the sentiments of largely the white minority population of SA and therefore they do not share the sentiments of the pain of surviving apartheid violence. The DA leader has gone as far as Ukraine to be seen to support the war. This is a leader of a party that leads an area where more people are killed by guns through gang-related wars and crime than in Ukraine. He has never been to those places. He has however been to Hill in Washington to convince the United States against SA’s peace position. The danger of this is that next year South Africa will host the most important elections since 1994. The DA is garnering support from Washington for itself not South Africa as they stand a chance for the first time to perhaps take power from the ANC, an unlikely event however given the dire situation with electricity and the economy – anything is possible. The DA politically models itself after American political parties. Sometimes they model themselves after Trump’s administration talk and sometimes style with a mix of Democratic policies.
Nearly every day now, South Africa hosts a delegate from a different country. These last few days alone, President Ramaphosa has hosted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Vice President Mrs. Francia Marquez of Columbia. Everyone knows what is happening. The world is changing. This change is going to be launched from South Africa in August with potentially a new BRICS currency which will change the world as we know it. The DA represents the old Western world whose power is fading fast. They may believe themselves to be the last hope to sabotage the global power change for people who look like them and countries who gained power through colonial conquest. This is Steenhuisen’s desperation that perhaps fed these unsubstantiated allegations to the US Ambassador.
Siki Dlanga writes from South Africa. She graduated from Washington D.C., American University in Political Communications, MA.