Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
22 Oct 2018
6:05 am

Business as usual for Saudi trade relations with SA

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

The suspicious death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led to an international outcry against the Middle Eastern superpower, but SA will not halt several upcoming bilateral engagements.

Demonstrators dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Donald Trump (C) protest outside the White House in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

It’s business as usual as far as bilateral trade relations with Saudi Arabia are concerned, according to the department of trade and industry (the dti).

This as South Africa faces a diplomatic conundrum over the death of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi under suspicious circumstances at the kingdom’s consular offices in Turkey.

While the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s death are unclear, the Middle Eastern superpower’s account of his death has raised suspicion around the government’s involvement. According to foreign media reports, Khashoggi may have been tortured and dismembered while still alive inside the Saudis’ Turkish Consulate.

ALSO READ: Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died, Trump clings to their explanation of how

Turkish media have reported that an audio recording of his torture to prove that his death came at the hands of several Saudi state operatives who flew into and out of the country on the day of Khashoggi’s death.

This has led to an international outcry against the regime, which has in the past come under fire for its human rights record.

As far as the dti was concerned yesterday, there was no directive from above to halt several upcoming bilateral engagements with Saudi Arabia. This despite the fact that president Cyril Ramaphosa cancelled State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba’s planned trip to Dubai to meet with the Saudi Arabian head of intelligence.

South Africa is expected to host investors from Saudi Arabia thia week during the International Investment Conference, according to dti spokesperson Sidwell Medupi. Medupi said the department was also expecting a technical team from the Saudi government to visit South Africa shortly as part of its ongoing talks for partnership in the energy sector.

Meanwhile, it appears neither the defence department, arms manufacturer Denel nor the presidency is in the loop about a multibillion-rand arms trade deal Saudi Arabia wants to cut with South Africa.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesperson Joy Peter said she would not comment, and seemed incredulous that the question was being directed to the defence ministry. Mapisa-Nqakula was not involved in “procurement issues”, she explained, and she was unaware of whether the department itself was directly involved.

She did, however pass the buck to department spokesperson Simphiwe Dlamini, who could not be reached yesterday.

Denel denied any involvement in talks earlier this month.

McKinsey & Company is also under the spotlight for targeting Saudi dissidents by the kingdom’s government:

  • American consultancy firm McKinsey & Company were reportedly complicit in the targeting of Saudi Arabian dissidents by the kingdom’s government, The New York Times reported at the weekend.
  • According to the paper, McKinsey created a nine-page report analysing public response to Saudi Arabia’s austerity measures announced in 2015.
  • The report found that three dissidents were eminently influential in proliferating negative coverage on Twitter. The Saudi government reportedly targeted and punished several dissidents after the firm identified them in a report.
  • In South Africa, McKinsey lost most of its clients after the emergence of its partnership with local consultancy firm Trillian that won them a R1.6 billion contract with power utility Eskom in 2016.
  • At the time, Trillian was controlled by the Gupta brothers, currently being investigated on various platforms over accusations that they unduly benefited from their friendship with then president Jacob Zuma and questionably won government contracts worth billions.
  • Earlier this year, the firm’s global office apologised to South Africans for the work it did with individuals linked with the state capture scandals surrounding Zuma.

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