Brigety says Russia cargo loaded weapons from Simon’s Town
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that his government is investigating allegations that it had supplied arms and ammunition to Russia in violation of international sanctions imposed over its military intervention in Ukraine.
Ramaphosa’s statement came after a report by News24, a Cape Town-based news website, quoted Reuben Brigety, the US ambassador to South Africa, as saying that a Russian cargo ship had loaded weapons and munitions from the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December.
According to the report, Brigety said he had raised the issue with South African officials and warned them that such a deal could damage their relations with the US and other Western allies. He also said he had evidence that the ship, named the Lady R, was owned by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin and had previously delivered arms to Syria.
The report sparked controversy and criticism in South Africa, which has maintained a neutral position on the conflict in Ukraine and has good diplomatic and trade ties with both Russia and the US. South Africa is also a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the international trade in conventional weapons and prohibits transfers that could contribute to human rights violations or breaches of international law.
Ramaphosa said he was not aware of any such arms deal and that his government would conduct a thorough investigation to verify the facts. He said he had instructed the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, to look into the matter and report back to him as soon as possible.
He also said he had spoken to Brigety and assured him that South Africa was committed to upholding its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Ramaphosa said South Africa respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and supported a peaceful resolution of the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy. He said South Africa valued its strategic partnership with the US and hoped to strengthen its cooperation on various issues of mutual interest.
He also said South Africa had a long-standing friendship with Russia and appreciated its contribution to Africa’s development and security. He said South Africa hoped to maintain a balanced and constructive relationship with both countries despite their differences over Ukraine.