The nuclear threat derived from Iran’s investment in South Africa is only the tip of the iceberg

Over the last two decades we are witnessing a long line of efforts of Iran to get closer to South Africa. This has many reasons, and in the past, these were connected mainly to economic issues. South Africa has a lot of potential, enormous resources and a significant chip on the shoulder. Although the black population has overcome the apartheid regime and is now completely independent, many leading figures in economics and science have left the country, which caused another kind of dependence, a void that was soon to be filled by foreign contractors, including Chinese, Russian and some Iranian entities.

South Africa is considered an emerging market, but unemployment and several corruption scandals have rattled the economy, making it an inviting playground for take-over investors. South Africa sold a lot of real-estate, moved over to services, mainly financial services, and improved manufacturing. Still, South Africa is heavily indebted, and highly dependent on benefactors. The prediction shows still no cause for ovations. Water and electricity shortage are only the beginning. The health system is disastrous and there is no improvement in sight. So, what’s in it for Iran?

At first sight you will see Gold and Uranium ore, Western grade weapons industry, interesting not only as a supplier, but also for the know-how. This alone should be reason enough to invest. But South Africa has much more to offer. It used to have a very successful nuclear weapons program, a unique enrichment technology, highly advanced middle range missile capabilities and a scientific backbone to all of the above. Shortly before South Africa gave up the white nationalist regime, they closed down the WMD projects, allegedly turning South Africa into a de-nuclearized zone.

Far more important for the nuclear issue are two South African assets: First, what happened to the fissile material? Reportedly South Africa keeps almost 500 pounds of weapons grade Uranium in the Pelindaba Nuclear research center. We leave it to your imagination how much fissile material there really is, but enough for several atom bombs, no doubt! Secondly, South Africa has completed a nuclear weapons program, so there is at least work experience, testing results and scientific papers that would be of high interest to Iran. Even if all the scientists have left, Iranian experts could use their work to promote Iran’s nuclear program. There could be a mutual interest, should South Africa want to regain nuclear weapons capabilities at any time, especially as Iran could provide them with a hidden playground to do some development out of sight.

Ever since South Africa joined the BRICS arrangement it has become a paid player, providing prospects and activities and receiving mainly financial security. Somehow large parts of their debt have been served. Further cooperation with Iran could have a catastrophic impact on regional stability, again in the interest of BRICS.

Recently things have changed. South Africa has shown willingness to take it to another level, taking side actively and even leading initiatives against the West. It would have been hard for China or Russia to employ South Africa, but the close relations with Iran have changed the rules completely. Over the last few years, South Africa has turned into some kind of Iranian Proxy. This is not easily explained. To start with, the only thing in common between Iran and South Africa was the ANC support for a Palestinian State. We also saw South Africa backing Iran somewhat later on the issue of the right to run a civilian nuclear program, while Iran was supporting the ANC. On the other hand, even Mandela saw Iran in complete opposition of what South Africa stands for, mainly on the issue of democracy. Still, over the years, Iranian investments were rising, and in parallel you could see that South Africa allows Hezbollah to operate freely within the country. Very soon, South Africa expanded their contacts to the Hamas terror organization, organizing mutual visits. Iran had successfully tabbed into the anti-Western sentiments in Africa, and as a serious oil provider, Iran was more than welcome.

In 2021 Raisi revived the existing relations and put a price tag on them. South Africa will play along with Iran and in return will get financial benefits, on a national level with oil supplies, as well as on a personal level. The debt ridden and weakened South African administration had found the helping hand to pull it out of the economic quick-sand. Representing Iran’s interests, as in the case of law suit against Israel before the international court in De Hague on a national level is only the beginning.

South Africa has of strategic importance for BRICS: It is yet another essential naval pass-way in the hands of this organization, after controlling Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb. The pressure on Egypt is rising to complete the stranglehold on the Western world, and mainly on Europe. With the Suez channel as part of BRICS, there will be a change in who is calling the shots, and, spoiler alert, it will not be the democracies we cherish so much.