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15 May, 2023 11:46

Row with US won’t lead to sanctions – South Africa official

Pretoria has settled its dispute with Washington regarding claims that it supplied arms to Russia, the finance minister has said
Row with US won’t lead to sanctions – South Africa official

South Africa has resolved its dispute with the US over allegations that Pretoria supplied weapons to Russia, the finance minister has said. “The Americans are not likely to respond with any anger tomorrow,” Enoch Godongwana told Bloomberg in an interview published on Sunday.

The US ambassador to South Africa, Ruben Brigety, accused Pretoria last week of providing arms to Russia by loading them onto a cargo ship in Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December, which the South African government has denied.

Godongwana said the Americans first expressed their concerns about the matter two months ago, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to order an investigation and send a delegation to Washington to ease tensions.

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,” the minister was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

The issue has reportedly caused concern among investors, with the rand and government bond yields plummeting amid fears that a diplomatic escalation might put billions of dollars in trade at risk.

Godongwana said that the market’s reaction could disrupt South Africa’s fiscal framework, but a recovery would depend on investors’ confidence that the issue is resolved. “Once people realize that the matters raised by the ambassador have been dealt with, I think that things are going to stabilize,” he said.

Relations between Pretoria and Washington have deteriorated as South Africa insists on taking a non-aligned stance towards the Ukraine conflict. Brigety’s comments worsened the tensions, and the South African government expressed its displeasure with his conduct. The envoy was summoned to explain his remarks, and he apologized unreservedly for crossing the line.

All weapons sales in South Africa, according to Godongwana, have to be approved by a cabinet committee, and no official decision had been made 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,” he added.

Unlike many Western countries, South Africa – which, along with Russia, Brazil, India, and China, forms the BRICS group of nations – has refused to impose sanctions on Moscow and supply weapons to Ukraine. Ramaphosa has explained that his country’s neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict means “we can talk to both sides.”