Friday, June 2, 2023

S Africa slams US for accusing it of supplying arms to Russia

South Africa on Friday hit out at the US for accusing it of supplying arms to Russia amidst its war with Ukraine, saying the country cannot be bullied.
Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation said there was no official record of any arms sales to Russia.
Her remarks came a day after US Ambassador Reuben Brigety at the US Embassy in Pretoria said the US had information that the Russian vessel Lady R had been loaded with weapons at the naval base of Simonstown on the South African coast late last year.
“(South Africa) cannot be bullied by the US. They want to treat us as if we are one of their states. We are not. We are a sovereign and republic state and we are not going to co-govern with the ambassador of the US,” Ntshavheni said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has launched an independent inquiry into it and promised firm action if there was any wrongdoing.
“When you say you have these concerns, we say to you, officially, from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, we do not have a record of any authorisation for South Africa selling arms to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus,” Ntshavheni said.
“We comply as a country to our own Conventional Arms Control Act, which says arms manufactured in South Africa cannot be used in wars that affect women, children, and we are very clear on that,” she said, adding that there was strict oversight on arms sales.
Ntshavheni also commented on the decision by the Department of International Relations and Communication (Dirco) to demarche Brigety and for the minister of the Department Naledi Pandor to meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Friday, describing this as part of the diplomatic steps to address the situation.
She decried the move by the ambassador, saying it was the wrong way to raise any concerns that the US might have on any issue.
“It doesn’t work. If the US has concerns about anything in South Africa, they are allowed to raise them — but the channel they need to contact is Dirco to say (that) these are the issues they have problems with because we have a relationship with the US,” she said.
Ntshavheni said South Africa has no sanctions against Russia and did not wish to get involved in any dispute that the US might have with Russia or China.
“It is the US which has sanctions against Russia, so when they sanction Russia, they must not drag us into their issues with Russia.
We don’t want to be dragged into these issues and the differences between Russia and China. “We have our own independent and sovereign relationship with China, the US, Russia and any other country,” she said.
During an earlier visit by Blinken to Pretoria, Pandor made it very clear that South Africa would not be bullied by anyone into taking sides in the war, stopping just short of naming the US.
South Africa, which was among the first of a few countries to abstain from voting against a UN resolution decrying Russia’s attack on Ukraine, has consistently refused to take sides in the battle.
This had led to strained relations between South Africa and the US, which sees the African country as a key partner in the African continent.
South Africa hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks in January. A few weeks later, Russian warships joined the local and Chinese navies in drills. South Africa had said the drills would “strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China.”
It said the drill had been planned a year before Russia invaded Ukraine.
South Africa is also under pressure internally and abroad to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to join other leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries for the bloc’s summit in Johannesburg in August.
The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant of arrest against Putin for alleged war crimes involving the abduction of children from Ukraine.
As the rand plummeted to record lows against the dollar on Friday, economists cautioned about the possible impact of the fallout on trade between the two countries.
The US is one of South Africa’s largest trading partners. The US also seeing South Africa as a gateway into the African continent.


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