September 22, 2023

South Africa says it will not be bullied by the U.S. as American Ambassador apologizes for making false claims on weapons sales to Russia

The United States Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, has apologized for claiming without substantiated evidence that South Africa sold weapons to Russia last December intended for use against Ukrainians.

Brigety alleged on Thursday that a Russian ship was loaded with ammunition and weapons in Cape Town last December, purportedly to aid President Vladimir Putin in his conflict with Ukraine.

South Africa vehemently denied having any knowledge of an arms sale to Russia and expressed outrage over the unsubstantiated claims. The Presidency further emphasized that such allegations undermine the cooperative and collaborative spirit that has characterized the relationship between the two nations.

To address the allegations, the South African government has initiated an independent inquiry led by a retired judge. President Cyril Ramaphosa also discussed the issue during a parliamentary session, affirming that the investigation is currently underway. He reiterated the government’s commitment to uncovering the truth and urged all parties involved to present concrete evidence to support their allegations.

Ambassador Reuben Brigety - Credentialing

South African Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, expressed strong disapproval of the U.S. allegations, stating that South Africa could not be “bullied by the U.S.” In an interview with public broadcaster SABC, Ntshavheni pointed out that “It is the US which has sanctions against Russia,” and added, “they must not drag us into their issues with Russia.”

Ntshavheni’s comments came just hours after President Vladimir Putin had spoken to his South African counterpart by phone, with both leaders agreeing to deepen their “mutually beneficial ties”.

After being summoned by the South African government, Ambassador Brigety expressed his gratitude on social media for the opportunity “to correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks.” He emphasized the strong partnership between the U.S. and South Africa and the significant agenda their respective presidents have set.

On Friday, the White House faced scrutiny following Brigety’s bombshell accusation. During a virtual news briefing, White House spokesperson John Kirby was unable to provide substantial evidence to support Brigety’s claims, leading to further questions and concerns.

Kirby admitted that he had limited information beyond what was discussed in a roundtable in South Africa, where Brigety made the allegations without providing any corroborating evidence. This lack of evidence further fuelled doubts about the validity of the accusations.

Ambassador Reuben Brigety - Credentialing
Ambassador Reuben Brigety – Credentialing

Kirby underscored the U.S.’s consistent stance of urging countries not to support Russia’s war and to refrain from facilitating any actions that might enable President Putin to harm Ukrainians. However, he declined to provide specific details about any diplomatic exchanges on this matter.

When reporters questioned Kirby about the possibility of Russia acquiring weapons from countries without their governments’ knowledge, he admitted he could not answer, reiterating that he had already shared as much information as he could during the press conference.

Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has demanded the expulsion of the United States Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety.

During the party’s three-day Central Command Team meeting in Kempton Park, EFF National Chairperson Veronica Mente criticized President Cyril Ramaphosa for his decision to initiate an inquiry into the docking of the Russian ship, Lady R.

“We have called for his removal, and he should immediately pack his bags and return home. A person shouldn’t let excitement lead to unfounded accusations against a sovereign country on its own soil,” Mente said. She further criticized Ramaphosa, saying, “He should have dismissed such unfounded allegations. He ought to fully understand the country he’s leading, including the activities at its ports.”

Mente also emphasized that the South African government should not allow itself to be intimidated by the United States and must proceed with hosting the BRICS Summit, which includes Russian President Vladimir Putin as a participant.

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