A South African government inquiry has found no evidence to support claims by the US that a Russian ship collected a cargo of weapons in the country last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.
The US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, accused Pretoria in May of supplying Russia with arms and ammunition, which he claimed had been loaded onto the Lady R cargo ship in the port of Simon’s Town in December of 2022. Brigety condemned South Africa for allegedly failing to adhere to its non-alignment policy amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The allegations resulted in Brigety being summoned to the South African Foreign Ministry, while President Ramaphosa criticized the US for “undermining the spirit of cooperation.” The leader stated at the time that there was no evidence to support the envoy’s claims, although he pledged to open an investigation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov advised Brigety to “mind his own business” and not interfere in relations between Moscow and Pretoria.
Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that a government panel had “found no evidence that any cargo of weapons was loaded for export onto the ship Lady R,” or that the vessel had transported arms destined for Russia. He added that the allegations had damaged South Africa’s economy and global standing, and that the people behind them had provided no evidence to back them up.
According to Ramaphosa, the inquiry included testimonies from nearly 50 people and examined more than 100 documents. It established that the ship had delivered equipment ordered for the South African military by Armscor, a weapons-procuring company. However, he refused to make the report public or provide details on the equipment delivered, arguing that doing so could compromise “critical [South African] military operations.”
Ramaphosa said the relevant permits had been obtained for the import of the goods, and that no evidence of criminal conduct had been found.
South Africa has close ties to Russia dating back to the Soviet era. It has declared neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, but has accused the West of hurting “bystander countries” through its sanctions on Moscow. Last month, South Africa hosted a key summit of the BRICS economic group, which counts Russia among its members. In February it held naval exercises with Moscow and Beijing, a move criticized by Washington.
Source: Russia Today