By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi
US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety has apologised for his remarks on arms sales to Russia after meeting with International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor on Friday.
Brigety, whose comments that South Africa was arming Russia had caused a Trans-Atlantic diplomatic storm, said his remarks were misrepresented.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was going to appoint an independent probe, led by a retired judge, to investigate the allegations.
The Department of Defence has welcomed the investigation, saying it would clear all the air there.
Brigety said South Africa has strong trade and other relations with the US.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Foreign Minister Pandor this evening and correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks. In our conversation, I re-affirmed the strong partnership between our two countries and the important agenda our Presidents have given us,” said Brigety.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said they needed to close the gaps and move on.
He said in the meeting they had asked Brigety to produce evidence that South Africa was arming Russia, and this was not done.
He said South Africa wanted to move on from this saga.
“The relations between our two countries are strategic and far too important. In our meeting we reminded ambassador Brigety that government’s National Conventional Arms Control Committee is on record saying they’ve not approved any sale of arms to Russia related to the period or incident in question. Therefore any assertion that South Africa (government) sold arms or is arming Russia is factually incorrect.
“We invited him to produce any evidence that he relied on for the public pronouncement. None has been submitted yet. The inquiry will be another platform to receive such,” said Monyela.
He said diplomatic protocol was not observed when Brigety went public with his utterances.
After the meeting, the US ambassador apologised for his behaviour, but when he posted on Twitter, “he used language that appears to have left some wondering about the ‘apology’,” said Monyela.
He said he had raised that with Brigety’s office.