“Arms and money” from Russia are flowing into South Africa.
Will the diplomatic crisis between the United States and South Africa affect the deployments of South African special forces in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo?
At the center of the crisis, a Russian ship delivered shells and machine guns to South African special forces according to the Sunday Times.
A senior government source told The Sunday Times that containers unloaded at Simon’s Town naval base from the Lady R vessel is now at the center of a major diplomatic crisis between Pretoria and Washington.
The ship contained containers including shells and machine guns that could be transported on planes.
New details have emerged about the shipment of Russian arms and ammunition which Defense Minister Thandi Modise said was delivered to South African special forces by the freighter Lady R in December last year.
Washington risks withdrawing its support for the deployment of South African armed forces in the fight against insurgents in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Mozambique, 1,495 South African troops are deployed to fight insurgents in the Cabo Delgado region. South Africa is also part of the armed forces fighting M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the DRC crisis , 1,198 South African soldiers will remain in the country until March 2024 as part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC and the FIB (Rapid Intervention Brigade)
It should be noted that South Africa is also seeking funding for these operations in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And Russia has provided arms and ammunition when South Africa wants to deploy troops or reinforce the Monusco Rapid Intervention Brigade as part of the deployment of SADC forces. Some suggest that South Africa’s ambition to regain lost influence in the Great Lakes region could be behind the May 8 proposal. This May 8 proposal from Windhoek calls for intervention by SADC forces with a coercive mandate against the Rwandan-backed M23 as MONUSCO’s mandate ends. Nearly R2 billion will be spent to extend the deployment South African troops in two SADC countries including Mozambique and the DRC.
“The arms issue is not a much more serious dissatisfaction for Washington with South Africa,” said Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets at Intellidex, the South African research firm.
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South Africa’s reputation as a financial center has already been dented by its placement this year on an international “grey list” for falling behind in the fight against financial crime.
The South African army chief visited Moscow amid a crisis with Washington over arms deliveries, while an ANC delegation met with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party last month. Putin could still visit South Africa as he is indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, after an invitation from Ramaphosa to attend a Brics summit in August.
Some of this can be attributed to the ANC’s historical ties to the Soviet Union, but the lack of any real economic interest arising from those ties has led some to question whether the ANC bases its policy on Russian money influencing the ANC Party itself.
“There is evidence that the ANC benefits from its relationship with Russia from a financial point of view. . . but they do so to the detriment of the country’s national economy,” said Leoka, the South African economist.
In particular, Chancellor House, a company linked to the ANC, has a stake in the consortium that owns the United Manganese of Kalahari mining group with a company backed by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian businessman who was sanctioned for what the United States claims to have close ties with Putin. The company in which he holds a stake owns 49% of UMK, below the threshold from which sanctions would apply to the mine.
The UMK gave 25 million rand ($1.3 million) to the ANC in 2022, split over two fiscal years, according to statutory documents, of which 15 million rand was an in-kind donation ahead of the party’s elections in December.
Washington anger: South Africa could be excluded from AGOA and its military deployments in the DRC and Mozambique called into question
Are the money and weapons from Russia used to support or reinforce the deployments of South African special forces in the Congo and Mozambique within the framework of SADC? Which explains Washington’s anger.
South Africa’s flirtation with Moscow risks billions of dollars in the country’s exports to the United States. More than $15 billion in exports that support a vital part of South Africa’s manufacturing industry are at stake due to his collusion with Putin.
However, US sources said there was growing concern in the United States, particularly in Congress, over South Africa’s failure to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the perception that South Africa is drifting further into the Russian-Chinese camp at a time when Washington’s relations with these two countries are becoming increasingly strained and competitive.
“The Prospect of Loss of Duty-Free Access to U.S. Markets. . . is now a very real risk for South Africa,” said Business Leadership South Africa, an industry group. “When our current eligibility is reviewed, we should expect South Africa to fail the admission test of not threatening U.S. national security interests. South Africa exported more than $15 billion worth of goods to the United States in 2021, according to the US Department of Commerce.
While analysts do not expect South Africa to be kicked out of AGOA immediately, Pretoria’s future participation in a deal due for renewal in 2025 was already in doubt. “Technically, South Africa is not eligible because it is an upper-middle-income country, so the United States made a special exemption,” said Thabi Leoka, a South African economist.
AGOA is vital in supporting South African automakers and the industries around them, from ports to parts suppliers. More than four-fifths of vehicles manufactured for export in South Africa are destined for Europe or the United States.
Although China has overtaken the United States as South Africa’s largest trading partner, Chinese imports largely reflect demand for products such as chrome or iron ore, rather than more sophisticated goods. that leave more value in the South African economy.
According to Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the South African Chamber of Agricultural Affairs, only 0.2% of South Africa’s overall exports went to Russia last year, compared to 9% to the United States. . Ten percent went to China.
“Russia is one of the least important export markets for all of South Africa’s goods,” Sihlobo said.