Rand plunges to all-time low after US-SA diplomatic row
THE South African rand — which is used in Zimbabwe’s multi-currency system — is still stuck in murky waters after it slumped to its lowest level on record against the United States dollar as investors expressed grave concern over a blazing diplomatic row between Pretoria and Washington relating to the alleged supply of arms of war by Union Buildings to the Kremlin.
This came as gold miner AngloGold Ashanti has announced it will move its primary listing to New York from Johannesburg in a bid to access a deeper pool of investors and reduce risks associated with South Africa, the company said on Friday.
Zimbabwe mainly uses the US dollar and its own battered local currency, although there are other units which are legal tender as well.
The rand, pula, pound and euro are some of the currencies. The diplomatic row put trade worth billions of dollars to South Africa at risk as Pretoria got a battering economic backlash from the US at a time when the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) has just be renewed to 2025.
The legislation significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa.
Zimbabwe was excluded from Agoa when the US slapped it with targeted sanctions in 2002 over policy clashes and stolen elections.
The rand was today trading at US$1: R19.44. Yesterday the currency fell as much as 1.6% to 19.5148 per dollar, breaching the all-time low of 19.35 set during the Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020. South Africa has refused to let go the blazing diplomatic row with the US over an alleged sale of arms to Russia — which has not been proven by evidence – without putting Washington’s hawkish ambassador to Pretoria Reuben Brigety firmly in his place.
Foreign affairs public diplomacy head Clayson Monyela said while it is time to move on, it should be made clear beyond reasonable doubt that Brigety “apologised unreservedly” in a meeting with International Relations and Cooperation minister Naledi Pandor for his actions which crossed the line in a recorded meeting and that should now be considered a matter of public record.
Monyela said: “So, let’s fill in some gaps & close this matter. @USAmbRSA & us are keen to move on. The relations between our two countries are strategic and far too important. “1. 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. “2. We invited him to produce any evidence that he relied on for the public pronouncements. None has been submitted yet. The inquiry will be another platform to receive such. Established diplomatic protocols and channels were not observed. “3. Having raised all these and other matters, @USAmbRSAapologised unreservedly. In his tweet, he used language that appears to have left some wondering about the ‘apology’. I have informed his office (diplomatic courtesy) that I’d tweet & tag him (as confirmation). @ USAmbRSA’s apology is on record and NOT in dispute. “5. We reaffirmed the commitment to continue working to enhance the existing cordial, strong and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.”
In the aftermath of the diplomatic tiff, the question remains: Were there any arms sold by Union Buildings to the Kremlin in the first place? Brigety says there were weapons sold by South Africa to Russia and he even put his head on the block over it.
However, stakeholders where are the facts and the evidence? They say it is not enough for the US to say a ship was seen on satellite sailing to and from Simon’s Town, apparently loading and offloading arms. The South African government says it is investigating the issue as there is no official record of any sale of arms to Russia.
This is mysterious. Did the South African government sell any arms or was it the private sector? Or criminal syndicates? They say is critical is to ascertain the facts, evidence, proof, truth and get closure to lay the matter to rest.
This is critical against the backdrop of recent catastrophic history and devastating conflict in the Middle East, resulting from flawed and “sexed up” intelligence which informed momentous and historic decisions on war.
Iraq inevitably comes to mind. It is important, analysts say, to ask questions to get answers and accountability on these key issues. After he was demarched, Brigety dramatically climbed down on his sensational allegations.
“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 & the important agenda our Presidents have given us,” Brigety said.
South Africa demarched Brigety and read the riot act to him. Besides meeting Brigety, Pandor also spoke to her counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, about the issue which has caused a global diplomatic storm.
Brigety’s message fell short of the apology, which South Africa’s foreign affairs says he made. What is clear, though, is that he was forced to abandon his initial hawkish and megaphone diplomacy for the art of tact in his engagement.