By Gugulethu Hughes
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
Reuben Brigety, USA ambassador to South Africa, recently made claims that South Africa was supplying the Russian Federation with arms of war. So convinced was the ambassador that he bet his life on the claim that the Russian ship Lady R left Simon’s Town in the Western Cape full of Moscow-bound weapons. The USA is well known for its high levels of surveillance, and one could be forgiven for assuming the Ambassador was correct. However, Reuben did not limit his rants to Lady R but went on to state that South Africa has a duty to arrest Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin when he comes to the country for the BRICS Summit in August.
Brigety stated that he doesn’t understand where the confusion is coming from, and the USA is watching this with interest. The truth is that Reuben Brigety’s outburst is informed by the prevailing U.S. foreign policy towards Russia and South Africa. The remarks were not unilaterally made by the ambassador and so was the non-diplomatic protocol conduct.
This was classic USA big brother complex rearing its ugly face and sending inverted warning shots. The instruction came from those who make decisions in the White House with Reuben doubling up as a mere messenger.
When South Africa attained political independence in 1994, the country was stuck with an economic existential crisis that consistently manifested itself in the form of geopolitical squabbles between superpowers. For the USA and its Western proxies, South Africa remains a private island for Western interests and not a sovereign country. It is for this reason that any ventures that threaten Western hegemony are met with political and economic threats.
Unlike other African countries that are also under heavy guard of Western imperialism, South Africa was given a heavily flawed form of democracy. The next update to the democracy is set to bring about a coalition government where the surrogates of the USA have invested heavily in splitting the black vote through formation and funding of multiple political parties. It is this application made possible by the “best constitution” in the world that makes it possible for more than 80% of the population to be divorced from owning means of production, thereby leaving South Africa as one of the most unequal in the world.
South Africa is way too important for the USA and its Western allies due to the country’s high reserves of hard commodities, its key shipping ports, and “investor friendly” laws which have seen the rich get richer at the expense of landless natives. The operating systems behind South Africa’s farcical democracy glitched in 2009 and got reconfigured in 2017. All the challenges that the USA is currently facing with South Africa are a result of that monumental glitch which saw President Jacob G. Zuma become the South African president. The operating system undermined President Zuma’s wisdom and assumed that his lack of colonial education would make him a pushover.
Back when Russia was the Soviet Union, the nation played a big part in the political liberation of South Africa by offering military and intelligence training to freedom fighters while maintaining a supply of weapons of war. Therefore, Russia has always been a fundamental and critical ally for South Africa. This alliance would not have been possible had the USA and its Western allies not participated in the country’s colonization. On the other hand, the USA has a lifetime foreign policy of countering and containing Soviet Union and now-Russian Federation expansion and influence.
In 2010, the Russian-trained President Jacob Zuma led South Africa to the BRICS bloc in line with his administration’s policy of strengthening relations. In 2014, Zuma’s government got into a partnership with Russian state-owned energy company Rosatom to build eight nuclear reactors. The deal would have gone live this year had it not been for the Western-funded climate organizations that lodged a court case reversing the deal.
French state-owned nuclear company Areva and American company Westinghouse were also interested in South Africa’s nuclear build program. In 2015, President Obama’s administration was pushing South Africa to get rid of its highly enriched uranium leftover from the apartheid government nuclear program after some of it, enough to make six bombs and obliterate central Washington, was stolen in Pelindaba in 2007. A 2015 article which appears on the AGOA website partly reads,
“Tweak the tiger’s tail for long enough and it will eventually turn around and bite you. South Africa’s disdainful attitude towards the US is becoming a living example. President Jacob Zuma’s deepening public friendship with globally ostracized Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin won’t have gone unnoticed in Washington. Similarly, a continuous anti-business creep in laws proposed and enacted by Zuma’s socialist-inspired Government. Similarly, a continuous anti-business creep in laws proposed and enacted by Zuma’s socialist-inspired Government. are re-assessing their long-term commitment to the country. Such decisions are sure to be hastened if SA’s duty free access to the US market is removed…”
The Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) was enacted by President George W. Bush in 2000 as a means of affording eligible African states duty-free access to the American market with South Africa being the top exporter. It is a known fact that the USA does not venture into fair trade deals, and ultimately the presence of USA multinational corporations in eligible countries and their export activities to the USA ensures that the United States retains the bigger chunk of AGOA benefits. The USA went as far as bullying South Africa into accepting its chicken dumps which in turn harmed the local poultry industry. In 2016, American automaker Ford Motor Company received more than 600 million rands from South Africa for its Pretoria plant expansion while reaping the benefits of duty-free access to its home market leading to the Americans extracting shareholder value.
The United States’ most urgent onslaught on South Africa is three-pronged and consists of BRICS, the war in Ukraine, and relations with Russia. The BRICS bloc. which consists of Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa, has recently surpassed the G7 as the biggest trading bloc in the world. Talks of de-dollarization and a BRICS currency being introduced are making rounds. It is America’s interest to contain the growth of BRICS, and the country has been doing so for quite a while. In South Africa, Western-affiliated individuals and organizations funded the regime change agenda which saw intellectual vegetable Cyril Ramaphosa become President. President Zuma had to be removed for taking South Africa into BRICS, for having cordial relations with President Putin and Russia, and for daring to ensure that South Africa enjoyed energy security.
In Brazil, when Jair Bolsonaro became President, he embarked on the country’s biggest privatization drive while President Lula da Silva got imprisoned on concocted charges. The USA is sustaining Indian confrontations with Pakistan over the Kashmir region. China is being kept awake by US interests in Taiwan, while Ukraine is being used to keep the Federation of Russia on its toes. The BRICS bloc is not reaching its full potential due to America and its allies. A perfect scenario for the USA will be a South Africa that is either not part of BRICS or does not utilize the possible benefits that comes with BRICS membership.
The US-funded Ukraine War, as evidenced by the bottomless supply of billions worth of military aid to Ukraine, has no end in sight. The United States intends to do to Russia with Ukraine what it did to China with Taiwan. A growing Russian Federation, as evidenced by Luhansk, Donetsk, Kerson, Zaporizhzhia, is a threat to US geopolitical interests. As a matter of fact, the rise of comedian Volodymyr Zelensky to the position of Ukraine President was strategically planned and necessitated by the USA.
To give the war validity, America has embarked on an international disinformation drive to win over countries all over the world. It started with the UN General Assembly vote on Ukraine in March 2022 which saw all BRICS member countries abstain. South Africa’s and other African countries’ conduct in the vote did not impress the USA, leading to the US Congress in April 2022 unanimously passing the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act. The act sought to punish all African countries that are alleged to have good relations with Russia.
It must be pointed out that any country that is seen to be having a good relationship with Russia automatically becomes a threat to US national security. It is in this light that the US feels emboldened to make spurious accusations of South Africa supplying Russia with weapons of war, notwithstanding that Russia has enough military might to fight its own battles.
To this end, there has been an increasing number of Western-funded newsrooms attacking South Africa’s government for having a relationship with Russia which dates to liberation war days. Some have gone as far as trying to separate Russia from the USSR, while others are calling for the country to end relations with Russia so that South Africa can continue to enjoy AGOA benefits. What these foggy brained non-thinking journalists forget to mention is that AGOA has never transformed the South African economy but rather has greased the palms of Multinational companies’ shareholders more than anything else. AGOA is being used to threaten the poor people of South Africa with poverty, and the South African rand’s recent tanking against the US dollar is as coordinated as the war in Ukraine.
Reuben Brigety’s claims about South Africa come at the back of Cyril Ramaphosa’s security advisor Sydney Mufamadi’s trip to the USA where part of the discussions included AGOA’s renewal. South Africa is hosting this year’s AGOA forum sometime in August just like it is going to host the BRICS Summit. Mufamadi is lobbying for South Africa not to be excluded from AGOA and it needs no guessing what America’s conditions will entail. The country will in September of this year also be attending the G20 Summit in India. The USA is already fine tuning its positional power and using South Africa’s relations with Russia to sharpen its negotiating sword.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations summoned Ambassador Reuben Brigety to a meeting, called him out for contravening diplomatic protocol, and clarified that a shipment of arms to Russia never took place. The end result of the meeting was the Department of International Relations Head of Public Diplomacy Clayson Monyela tweeting about the parties present in the meeting agreeing to foster ties between the USA and South Africa while apologizing on behalf of Reuben Brigety who himself tweeted about correcting any misimpressions left by his statements, but offered no apology. Afterwards, the US State Department issued a statement alluding to a call between Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations where strengthening the countries’ partnerships was underscored.
In essence, what all this means is that the USA has leverage over South Africa. They don’t need to apologize to South Africa because the USA understands very well why it briefed its ambassador to call a press conference and make the claims he did.
It is possible that the United States advised Cyril Ramaphosa to move the state security department to the presidency to evade maximum accountability to the broader ANC which still boasts members who place value on radical economic transformation and cooperation with Russia. Having state security in the presidency gives Washington a free reign on South African intelligence to justify and strengthen its geopolitical positioning.
The ANC’s attitude towards the ICC arrest warrant for President Putin, wherein South Africa is expected to oblige during the BRICS Summit, is partly why Reuben Brigety made the public statements about a shipment of weapons. At the center of this is the strategy of refocusing the debate to AGOA and the benefits that South Africa stands to lose should it be excluded. The South African mainstream media have been drumming up public outcry to put pressure on the government to either prevent President Putin from coming to South Africa or arresting him upon his arrival. This is expected to be done in the “interest of economic and national security.”
Having an imperialist tool in the form of Cyril Ramaphosa does not help South Africa. The country should be making decisions for the benefit of South Africans and not Western corporations. Even though it has been clarified that there was no shipment of weapons to Russia, Ramaphosa is insisting on setting up a commission of inquiry. What South Africans need to know is that the Reuben Brigety stunt is part of a well-coordinated disinformation drive meant to fast-track South Africa’s divorce from Russia and increase reliance on the USA.
What South Africans must also know is that when it deems fit, and when it doesn’t get what it wants through manipulation, the USA will not hesitate to unleash on South Africa what it has done to Iraq and other countries.
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