The United States Ambassador to South Africa made the accusation on Thursday that the nation was assisting Russia with weapons and ammunition for its war in Ukraine via a cargo ship that moored covertly at a naval facility near the city of Cape Town for three days in December.
On Thursday, members of South Africa’s parliamentary opposition expressed concerns, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce that an investigation would be launched. According to reports of his comments that were broadcast by numerous South African news sites, Ambassador Reuben Brigety stated that the United States was positive that the equipment was placed aboard the Russian vessel at the Simon’s Town naval facility and subsequently taken to Russia. He said that the United States was certain that this had occurred.
When the news of Brigety’s statements broke, Ramaphosa was in Cape Town facing questions in Parliament. The president provided his reply to a lawmaker who inquired about the firearms and ammunition: “The matter is being looked into, and in due time we will be able to speak about it.” Ramaphosa did not provide any additional remarks, stressing the requirement that a probe be allowed to take its full course.
John Steenhuisen, the leader of the political opposition, confronted the president with the question of whether or not South Africa was “actively arming Russian soldiers who are murdering and maiming innocent people.” Steenhuisen also inquired as to whether or not Ramaphosa was able to verify that “weapons of war” were carried onto the Russian ship.
During the conflict, Russia’s lack of ammunition supply has developed into an issue for the country. Last week, the commander of the Russian private army known as Wagner voiced his displeasure at the plight of his mercenary troops serving in Ukraine, who he claimed were struggling with severe food and water deprivation.
In a statement that was released later on Thursday, Ramaphosa’s office recognized that a Russian ship with the name Lady R had docked in South Africa. However, the office did not specify where the ship had moored or what the purpose of its stop was. The statement criticized the American ambassador for going public and said there was an understanding that U.S. intelligence services would disclose any material they had to aid South Africa’s probe.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States government imposed sanctions on the vessel known as the Lady R as well as a Russian firm known as Transmorflot LLC that was connected to the vessel for their involvement in the transit of military equipment and weapons. Brigety stated earlier on Thursday that the suspected arming of Russia by South Africa during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “extremely serious” and that it put into doubt South Africa’s professed neutral posture.
The Associated Press independently confirmed Brigety’s claim, concluding that the ship Lady R did, in fact, visit the naval base in Simon’s Town during the relevant time period.