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OPINION | Lumko Mtimde: #LadyRussiagate – Is the US looking for scarecrows to offset fear of Russia?

Lumko Mtimde writes that he doesn’t believe SA gave arms to Russia as there are dedicated government structures to deal with the regulation of various kinds of arms.

The US/NATO war against Russia, using Ukraine, is now taking a different path. De-dolarisation of the world seems to be Washington’s biggest worry. South Africa’s hosting of the BRICS Summit at a time when the global balance of forces is changing face, has become America’s focus.

“Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one,” Karl Marx wrote in Das Kapital. It appears the US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety, is not really about the so-called allegations of arms and ammunition loaded onto the Russian ship in December 2022, Simons Town. The accusation is yet to be proved as the ambassador provided no proof of his allegations. It remains strange and unprecedented for a diplomatic official of another country to convene a media conference and call out their host country.

Inherently this proves the fragile, unstable, provisional, and temporary domination of US in the world. It seems they now trying all other means to reproduce their dominance. South Africa shouldn’t allow itself to be subjected to red herrings, smokes and mirrors.

Following a meeting on Friday with International Relations minister Naledi Pandor, Brigety tweeted: “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 reaffirmed the strong partnership between our two countries and the important agenda our presidents have given us.”

He did not clarify which “misimpressions” he corrected. He also did not use the word “apology” in his tweet. This indicates the US is standing by the substance of what he said.

To the extent if the amabssador’s allegations are genuine, let me in the public interest bring to all our attention, the legislative framework of arms control in SA, which is not secret. Arms control is transparent and accountable through Parliament.

READ | IN-DEPTH: #LadyRussiagate: Highly unlikely SA supplied weapons to Russia, say experts

Contrary to the narrative driven by some, perhaps because their governments do conduct unlawful acts and are able to escape the International Criminal Court (ICC), the SA government would not conduct its business in a manner that undermines the laws and the Constitution. SA has always stated publicly its commitment to the international agenda of responsible trade in arms.

Accordingly, South Africa has established dedicated government structures to deal with the regulation of various kinds of arms. These structures include the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), Non-Proliferation Council (NPC) and the Firearms Control Registry. The National Conventional Arms Control Act 41 of 2002 (NCAC Act) provides for the establishment of the NCACC as a committee of government established in terms of an Act of Parliament. 

While government recognises and acknowledges the role of the arms industry in the economy, its trade activities are fully regulated and controlled by government given the sensitivity of the products they produce. The NCAC Act and related regulations are consistent with the international commitments signed by South Africa. SA arms activities and NCACC decisions while balancing all interests, are guiding principles as contemplated in Section 5 and 15 of the Act.

Guided by NCACC

Section 15 provides to avoid transfers of [conventional arms] controlled items to governments that systematically violate or suppress human rights and fundamental freedoms; and that are likely to contribute to the escalation of regional military conflicts, endanger peace by introducing destabilising military capabilities into a region or otherwise contribute to regional instability. These principles therefore guide NCACC.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pandor have frequently outlined the SA foreign policy and the non-aligned stance on Russia- Ukraine war, firmly based on its resilient diplomatic policy of dialogue and resolution of conflict through peaceful means as opposed to war which has no victors but casualties on all sides, including spectators.

The SA stance, by the way is not new. In almost all global wars, SA has always pushed for negotiations and a peaceful resolution. Unlike the US which has committed most atrocities and is a common denominator in all global wars in violation of international law, the democratic SA has not attacked any country and has never been a subject of United Nations debate in this regard.

SA has never meddled in the affairs of other countries, has never been part of “regime change” agenda, imposing unlawful sanctions, engaging in financial coups, training mercenaries and establishing military bases. Instead, SA as a member of the African Union (AU) and when it chaired AU, it committed itself to silencing the guns of Africa and ending military juntas and coups. 

READ | FIRST TAKE: Spasibo, comrades: Russian arms sales, shambolic govt makes SA skunk of the world

It is US that does these, under an unsolicited moral stance on what it deems as an ideal form of democracy and an elixir to the dictatorships of the countries under its radar. The truth is, the US, as the late Nelson Mandela correctly observed, has abrogated itself the status of an international police officer without a warrant.

On its self-moral path, the US has destroyed the world, killed millions, and pulverised world economies. It has invaded countries to pursue its parochial imperialist agenda for global dominance, greed, oil reserves, and the rich mineral endowments of the countries it bombed and incinerated.

The US knew that it was living on borrowed time, fearful of a changing tomorrow that would shift the geopolitics and the balance of power. To protect itself, it invested in the military more than any country. This it did for a reason, to protect itself in its destructive path of undermining the sovereignty of other States and interfering in their territorial integrity.

It knew that one day, as unexpectedly happened on the fateful day of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, that its comeuppance would come. It’s dropping of the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and the tragedy of Hiroshima is one of history’s most dastardly acts equivalent to Hitler’s atrocities of Auschwitz.

US fear of the world

A cursory glance at the African map exposes the American fear of the world. The continental space is almost occupied by the US military. This they unashamedly do on a continent ravaged by war instigated by the US and the Western imperialists, diseases, drought, famine and underdevelopment, which paradoxically, their primary mission is war than development and investment on the continent suffering from the vestiges of colonialism. 

During the advent of Covid19 pandemic, the US did what it is best at. It pointed a finger of accusation at China, claiming Beijing had manufactured the deadly virus. In its cantankerous posture and act of belligerence, it waged an open trade war with China and threatened North Korea. Unsatisfied with these wars, it attempted to extend and hegomise its dominance and expansionism by waging war against Russia, using the Western alliance under NATO and the colonially pliant and malleable Volodymyr Zelensky as a sacrificial lamb, to the detriment of his people and global stability and food security.

While this was happening, BRICS was repositioning itself as a new global political and economic force to change the face of the world. This resulted in bolstering South-South relations, Sino-South Africa and Russian relations. Many countries showed interest in joining BRICS.

In view of these developments, oil, gas and grain shortages trading relations between countries opposed to war and the opportunities brought by iced ties between Washington, Moscow and Beijing presented a gradual geopolitical shift. The dollar’s dominance as the international trade currency weakened, threatening the US economy ravaged by high unemployment, an unstable health sector, institutionalised racism and wider inequality. The US was denuded, with less friends and trading partners. 

Just from another angle, to my mind Russia is very resourced and to the contrary would be the one supplying us with arms. I don’t know whether Ambassador Brigety, in his outburst, has proof whether, if there was any load of arms and ammunition, were they not from Russia to SA. We must welcome the independent inquiry to be instituted by the Presidency. The position taken by our country on this, should not be seen as compromising our right to trade arms in line with the NCAC Act and within its policy of supporting a peaceful world. 

Many are querying why the Presidency is instituting an independent inquiry. SA always uses best practices when accusations of anything are made, even in the arms control space. SA has had commissions of inquiry, as a way of not shooting from the hip but establishing facts before expressing a view. This, we should welcome, as it will provide evidence and give confidence to all concerned about the position of our country. It is not by any means a show of cowardice. On the contrary, after the inquiry, if the allegations are not accurate, the US Ambassador must be made to account through the diplomatic processes. 

SA will not be coerced into a relationship of bullying based on its moral stance and new trading partners on a new, fast changing era of cooperation. The new world order is unreversible. All world players must get ready for the new one. 

– Lumko Mtimde is writing in his personal capacity. He is a former Special Advisor to the Minister in the Presidency.

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