ANC 'taken aback' by US ambassador’s outburst, wants to meet

16 May 2023 - 11:53
By Amanda Khoza
ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula. File photo.

The ANC says it is “taken aback” by US ambassador Reuben Brigety’s allegations that South Africa supplied arms to a Russian vessel that docked in Simon's Town, Cape Town, in December last year.  

“We are going to meet with the US ambassador to understand him quite closely in terms of the issues he has raised about the ANC because in our view, a diplomat must understand, especially from a superpower like the US, the separation of party and government where there has been a diplomatic fallout,” said ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula.  

Though Brigety has “apologised unreservedly” for his utterances after a dressing down by minister of international relations Naledi Pandor last week, he has not withdrawn the allegations. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has instituted an inquiry to be headed by an independent judge to get to the bottom of the allegations. The government has denied Brigety’s claims. 

In his outburst, the ambassador also accused Luthuli House of ignoring his repeated requests for dialogue, a claim the ANC has denied.  

The explosive allegations set off chain reactions, with Ramaphosa contacting Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.  

Meanwhile Pandor, discussed the matter with her US counterpart Antony Blinken.  

After a national working committee (NWC) visit to KwaZulu-Natal, Mbalula said the ANC wants to meet Brigety.

He said Ramaphosa's security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, who led a diplomatic envoy dispatched by Ramaphosa to Washington last month, briefed the media in detail on Saturday about the trip. 

“We are quite delighted about that engagement and addressing issues that the US may have raised with our government in terms of whatever concerns that may have been raised. We are taken aback by the comments of the ambassador, for which he has apologised. 

“Our department of international relations ... has led that matter very well and we are impressed by the steps they have taken to defend South Africa’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and they must continue to do that because that’s their duty.”  

Mbalula said the party has not contemplated expelling Brigety from South Africa. 

In a statement after the NWC meeting, the party said it remained resolute that a better world and better Africa is one where war is not used to resolve differences.

“We are known as a country that fosters peace and a human rights-based approach. We stand by this and urge our government to defend and advance our national interests,” the ANC said. 

Weighing in on the fiasco at the weekend, Ramaphosa said the US's claims were discussed in a “very cordial” meeting. 

“We wanted to demonstrate we take this matter seriously, including our relationship with the US. We spoke of the processes we will embark on,’’ Ramaphosa said, referring to the inquiry. The president said Brigety had been present in those meetings. “Now, surprise, surprise, we come back and he accuses us; he launches an attack.” 

Meanwhile, the ANC's deputy chair of the international relations subcommittee, Obed Bapela, told the Sunday Times it was untrue that the ANC had ignored Brigety. 

He expressed disappointment in the ambassador, saying he met him three weeks earlier in Pretoria to ascertain what he wanted to speak to the ANC about. 

In setting up the meeting with the ANC delegation, Bapela said Brigety broke all protocol by pursuing “megaphone diplomacy” in calling a media briefing to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.