Lady R fallout: Is Pretoria pushing to expel US Ambassador Reuben Brigety?

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

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

Published Aug 10, 2023


Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said on Thursday that the South African government is following established diplomatic channels in seeking recourse after the major diplomatic storm sparked by the United States Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety.

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.

Pretoria has initiated a thorough investigation into the matter of weapons allegedly loaded onto the Russian cargo vessel Lady R in Cape Town.

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

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.

Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. File Picture: Supplied

Asked if the allegations are true, Ntshavheni said South Africa would not engage in megaphone diplomacy on the matter.

“On the allegations of pressure for the expulsion of Ambassador Brigety, fortunately, we do not deal with diplomatic issues and diplomatic relations with countries through megaphone diplomacy. We follow proper channels,” she said.

“Any decision that is taken will be communicated by the relevant ministry, which is the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.”

The minister said President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the report of the panel that investigated the Lady R cargo and will “apply his mind”.

“The report is meant for the president, and not for Cabinet,” she said.

In May, the SA Communist Party, a close ally and governing partner of the ANC, called for government to expel Brigety, after he made the explosive claims.

Following a social media furore and a demarche issued to Brigety by the Department of International Relations, Brigety “apologised” for the misconceptions arising from his remarks.

Dr Alex Mashilo, spokesperson for the SA Communist Party (SACP). File Picture: Matthews Baloyi/African News Agency (ANA)

SACP national spokesperson Dr Alex Mashilo said he believed US operatives were spying on South Africa, and Brigety was within that operation.

“How would an ambassador who represents a foreign country in our country make such claims without such claims coming from rogue intelligence networks? If you look at it, clearly, the functions of some intelligence work … they are definitely spying on South Africa, and the information is used from those spying activities to make the allegations,” said Mashilo.

He said the SACP had not seen Brigety’s apology.