Home » Anger rises over South Africa making millions in US benefits while cozying up to Iran, Russia and Hamas

Anger rises over South Africa making millions in US benefits while cozying up to Iran, Russia and Hamas

by John Jefferson
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JOHANNESBURG South Africa is under fire for spending millions of dollars talking to terror group Hamas and sending delegations for cozy negotiations with U.S. adversaries Russia and Iran. Some critics say the money would be better spent tackling the “chaos” back home.

South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world, rampant crime and widespread corruption, which has led to large parts of Johannesburg having no water for 10 out of the past 11 days, and, nationally, power blackouts between four and 11 hours a day.

The U.S. helps South Africa gain billions of dollars a year in trade benefits through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.  Orde Kittrie, law professor at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital it’s time for South Africa to be thrown out of the program. 

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“The ANC-led South African government has, in its relations with both Russia and Hamas, violated the requirement that AGOA beneficiaries not undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy and, with regard to Hamas, violated the requirement that AGOA beneficiaries not “provide support for acts of international terrorism,” said Kittrie, who also served as a State Department attorney and policy officiaL

“The AGOA law’s requirements really leave the Biden administration no choice but to terminate South Africa’s AGOA benefits unless such activities cease.”

South Africa continually makes controversial diplomatic moves, including allowing Russian ships to play war games just off the coast and permitting a Russian arms ship, the Lady R, to dock at a South African military base. This has attracted the attention of Sen. Tim Scott, the ranking Republican member of the Senate subcommittee on Africa and a member of the Senate subcommittee on banking. 

“South Africa has harbored sanctioned Russian ships, expanded relations with Iran and issued statements against Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’ recent terror attacks,” Scott said in a recent statement.

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Also, according to the USAID dashboard, Washington gave South Africa $660 million in aid in 2023.

Herman Mashaba, president of the relatively new political party ActionSA, told Fox News Digital, “The ruling party prioritizes Cold War-era alliances above the interests of the South African people. Our close relationship with Russia has jeopardized investment into the country, which cost jobs which South Africa cannot risk losing.” 

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“At the same time, 86 people are killed in South Africa per day,” Mashaba continued.  “Every 11 minutes, a woman is raped in this country. The ruling party has in 30 years been unable to address these crises and instead pays attention to everything except finding solutions to these issues.” 

The State Department weighed in. 

“Russia is waging a brutal war against the people of Ukraine, and we are constantly working to cut off support and funding for Putin’s war machine and to undercut Russia’s ability to carry out this conflict,” a department spokesperson said. “We have strongly urged countries not to support Russia’s war.” 

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On Tehran, the State Department spokesperson noted, “Iran is an adversary and the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It seeks to sow instability in the Middle East and around the world.

“We call on all countries to condemn Hamas, as Hamas is a designated terrorist organization and deserves condemnation”.

J. Brooks Spector, a former U.S. diplomat and associate editor of  The Daily Maverick, spoke of his concerns to Fox News Digital:

“South Africa has rarely supported America internationally in grave crises such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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“Beyond AGOA eligibility, South Africa might find itself at risk of seeing the major American contributions of PEPFAR funds combating HIV/AIDS begin to lessen or even end, as funds are shifted to other nations.” 

This would be disastrous. Even with support from the U.S., South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Part of the challenge for South Africa, going forward, is its desire for a foreign policy strategy that seeks to be a visible player in resolving international disputes far afield from its home continent such as Ukraine and Gaza, while largely ignoring equally urgent issues nearer to home,” Spector said.

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South African parliament

South Africa has “a completely chaotic approach to foreign policy in recent years,” Emma Louise Powell told Fox News Digital. Powell is shadow minister for international relations for the country’s opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, or DA.

Powell criticized the government for getting involved in talks on the Israel-Hamas war, “given the bloodbath unfolding in South Africa’s backyard, on the African continent, in countries such as Sudan, the DRC and across West Africa. This is not to mention the political and economic crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe.

“South Africa has not even condemned Russia’s illegal invasion. This is intellectually dishonest, given the funding the ANC is receiving from Russian-linked oligarchs and companies, and we see that this position is leading to South Africa’s increasing isolation.”

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Spector added, “Such a mix of behaviors means South Africa risks becoming increasingly irrelevant internationally, both as a country with real political heft and as a valuable investment and trade partner with anyone besides China.”

Then there’s the systemic corruption. Two years ago, hundreds of senior politicians and businessmen, mostly linked to the ruling African National Congress, or ANC, were accused in the 5,000-page State Capture report for links to corruption, yet very few have been prosecuted. 

“Many Washington foreign policy insiders are now for the first time seeing the ANC for what it has, sadly, become since (President Nelson) Mandela’s retirement, a party whose rampant financial corruption has impoverished South Africa’s people and led it to ally itself with America’s enemies including Russia, Iran and Hamas,” FDD’s Kittrie warned.

South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor

Earlier this week, Sen. Tim Scott tweeted, “The U.S. cannot continue to simply look the other way when it comes to corruption in South Africa. As we consider AGOA reauthorization, it’s important that we take steps to ensure the program’s eligibility requirements are actually enforced.”

The State Department is so concerned about corruption in South Africa it sent Fox News Digital an additional statement that some analysts say contains a veiled threat. 

“The fight against corruption is a core U.S. national security interest,” the statement said. “The United States considers the use of several foreign policy tools for countering corruption, including but not limited to financial sanctions. Beyond this, it is the policy of the United States to not comment on internal deliberations regarding the use of sanctions or to preview potential actions.”

Kittrie added, “U.S. officials are noticing that the ANC is not itself holding its corrupt officials accountable, with the ANC-led South African government reportedly making no significant progress in prosecuting South African officials who were bribed and, most recently, the ANC placing several corruption-tainted officials on its list for re-election.”

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Action SA’s Mashaba added “it is unacceptable that two years after the State Capture Report was submitted, not a single high-profile individual has successfully been prosecuted”

Last week, the South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, announced any South Africans with dual nationality who are fighting for Israel in Gaza will be arrested when they return. 

“We are ready. When you come home, we will arrest you,” the minister said, referencing a long-standing law that South Africans may not fight in wars for other countries. Yet, when the Iraqi ambassador here claimed as many as 300 South Africans had left to take up arms for the terror group Islamic State in Syria in 2015, there were no such public threats of arrests for returning fighters.

Analysts predict Foreign Minister Pandor could face some tough questions during her visit to Washington, scheduled for this week. 

The ANC government is likely to lose sole and majority power of South Africa in elections coming in May. Last week’s latest poll by the Brenthurst Foundation predicts the ANC will only get 39% of the vote. The party is likely to go into coalition, with analysts predicting this probably will be with the “revolutionary” EFF, the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

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The EFF wants to grab White-owned farmland with no compensation, according to its election manifesto. 

“As the EFF, we have never promised [White people] that we will not take the land. We don’t owe them anything,” EFF leader Julius Malema told cheering crowds at the manifesto’s launch. 

And the China-leaning EFF warned the 600 U.S. companies operating in South Africa that if the Americans working for them don’t like the EFF’s policies, “they can leave with immediate effect.”

Fox News Digital reached out to both the South African Foreign Ministry and the ANC but did not receive a response.

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