South Africa suspected of supplying weapons to Russia
US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety has accused the country of sending arms to Russia amid the ongoing brutal war in Ukraine, despite its professed neutrality over the invasion. He claimed a Russian ship was loaded with weapons in Cape Town last December.
At a media briefing on Thursday in Pretoria, Brigety revealed Washington’s concerns over South Africa’s stated non-aligned position on the conflict. He referred to the docking of a cargo ship in the Simon’s Town naval base between December 6 and 8 last year.
The presence of the Lady R had drawn the curiosity of some people at the time and triggered questions from some local politicians.
In the wake of the allegations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said no evidence has been provided in support of the claims.
The government has announced the establishment of an independent inquiry led by a retired judge, a spokesperson for the president’s office said.
The US hasn’t been fond of South Africa’s cosy ties with Russia. On Thursday, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told journalists Washington had earlier expressed its concern over the cargo ship before numerous South African officials.
He said the US wouldn’t hesitate to speak out against any country taking steps to back the year-long brutal invasion of Ukraine. However, it wasn’t immediately clear if there would be any repercussions for South Africa if the allegations were proven to be true.
Washington has also raised concerns over South Africa’s participation in days-long military drills with China and Russia during the first anniversary of the Russian invasion on February 24. Opposition figures also criticised the naval exercises as an endorsement of the war.
But the authorities in South Africa denied the drills were provocatively timed to coincide with the anniversary and said the country routinely participates in similar military exercises with other nations, including the US and France.
Previously, South Africa refused to join the West in imposing sanctions on Russia and also abstained from a UN vote condemning the war. The country has officially been pursuing a neutral role in the invasion.
But if the allegations concerning the Lady R are true, they will not only weaken South Africa’s neutral stance but also make some say the country is complicit in the ongoing war.