Rogue: International relations expert says calls for expulsion of US ambassador are warranted

Ambassador of United States to South Africa, Reuben Brigety. File Picture: Supplied

Ambassador of United States to South Africa, Reuben Brigety. File Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 24, 2023


There is merit in the growing calls for Pretoria to expel United States Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety following his claims around the supply of weapons to Russia, which have been found to be untrue.

Commenting on ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula’s remarks, insisting that Brigety should fall on his sword after the allegations were found to be true, chairperson of African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Joburg, Professor Chris Landsberg, said Mbalula makes sense.

"I have openly called him a rogue ambassador because of the behaviour. There are rules for how countries should conduct themselves," Landsberg told broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Thursday afternoon.

“(Mbalula) is certainly not overzealous. I am not sure to the extent which it represents government position. My view is that government wants this thing to go away. What is interesting is that what Fikile Mbalula as the secretary-general of the party has done, is that he has told us what is in the classified document (the findings of the independent panel).

US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety was called to a meeting with International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor after he made the claims that arms were sent to Russia. File Picture: Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) spokesperson Clayson Monyela/Twitter

"If it is true that there were no weapons sent of any sort, and if we remember the damning ramifications for this country, this country was effectively isolated. It was on the verge of sanctions. The ambassador said he bets his life on those very serious claims he made," Landsberg said.

The renowned academic said he would not be surprised if the South African government "simply papers over" the remarks and sought to move on from the episode.

He said from his public remarks, President Cyril Ramaphosa is possibly seeking to let the matter slide and turn a new leaf on Pretoria-Washington relations.

Earlier this month, IOL reported that Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the South African government is following established diplomatic channels in seeking recourse after the major diplomatic storm sparked by Brigety’s claims.

Earlier this year, Brigety made explosive claims that Pretoria had sold weapons to Russia, despite having taken a non-aligned stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Ramaphosa then initiated a thorough investigation into the matter of weapons allegedly loaded onto the Russian cargo vessel Lady R when it docked in Simon's Town Naval Base in Cape Town in December last year.

The panel that investigated the matter has concluded its work, and according to reports, the cargo was not weapons, as claimed by Brigety. The report was handed to Ramaphosa.

The findings of the panel have not been made public yet, but some sources claim the South African government is now using the report to push for Brigety’s expulsion from Pretoria.

On Wednesday, Mbalula was speaking in Pretoria at a Cuban symposium led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel who is visiting South Africa.

"How can we give weapons to Russia? It is Russia that should give South Africa weapons, and it has now been proven that we didn't give weapons to Russia, and we still don't understand why is this man (Brigety) still here in South Africa," Mbalula was quoted as saying.