US knows nothing can defend SA or its economy against its chastening

Last week, on the back of the unproven assertions by the United States ambassador Reuben Brigety II that South Africa was selling weapons to Russia, the rand to the dollar exchange rate hit a low at R19.46.

The department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) has since said that Brigety has apologised for making the unfounded allegations publicly.

And in typical President Cyril Ramaphosa fashion, a commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate the circumstances which led to this point: Lady R, a ship flying a Russian flag docking at a national key point under the cover of load shedding darkness and taking on cargo.

ALSO READ: Mbatha in Moscow: SA delegation to discuss ‘military cooperation’ 

If there wasn’t a war between Russia and Ukraine, the ship docking at Simon’s Town Naval Base with its transponder signal switched off would most probably be chalked down to South Africa’s porous borders and nothing further.

But this act happened at a time when the United States wants countries they do business with to clearly show they are on the side of the US and let the world know where their loyalties lie.

But the bumbling Dirco and Ramaphosa’s hit-and-miss foreign affairs policy has led the country to a point of nearly being declared as hostile to the US.

ALSO READ: US claims of SA-Russia arms exchange rattles rand

It is worth noting that the ruling party’s approach to foreign affairs is still rooted in the Cold War era, when communist Russia offered both military and monetary support to organisations around the world that showed leanings towards communism.

The ANC and, indeed, the whole anti-apartheid struggle, benefited immensely from Russia’s support for liberation movements and, stance and their aggressiveness in starting wars away from home put them be at odds with the ANC.

Which is why Bill Clinton was told by Nelson Mandela in the 1996 that South Africa will be friends with whomever they want and not who the US decides is good for South Africa.

ALSO READ: Government ‘leading SA to economic suicide’ by siding with Russia

Mandela could tell the US off because of who he was and South Africa’s position at the time, being the moral darling of the world.

America could not immediately respond to South Africa showing love to their communist enemies by inviting Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi to South Africa because the optics would make them look pretty bad.

But Ramaphosa is no Mandela and America knows there is nothing the world, Russia or South Africa can do to defend South Africa or, more specifically, its economy against a US chastening, hence the deliberate tanking of the rand.

The lesson for Ramaphosa and his government is not to ditch Russia and side with the US; the lesson is if you are going to declare Russia the aggressor in the Russia-Ukraine war, be prepared for the consequences.

ALSO READ: SA under pressure to choose sides in Russia-Ukraine conflict – Ramaphosa

It is not enough to declare that South Africa is neutral and then leave the country open to US economic punishment by allowing covert Russian ships to dock at SA’s naval bases during a war in which the US wanted the country to take its side.

It is suicidal, as the historical drop in the value of the rand against the dollar showed. If the country wants to be friends with Russia because of the support Russia gave the country in the 1960s, then the president and his government must work to reduce the R400 billion trade with the US and find other countries to do business with.

Long-winded explanations and commissions of inquiry do not make for a coherent foreign policy. They hurt ordinary citizens.

READ: US ‘getting over-excited’ over accusation that SA supplied arms to Russia