Russian ship delivered weapons to South Africa, not the other way around — report

The contents of containers offloaded at the South African military’s Simon’s Town naval base by a Russian cargo ship — the Lady R — included “armour-piercing incendiary shells” and machine guns suitable for mounting on aircraft.

This is according to the Sunday Times, which said it had been informed of this by a “highly placed government source.”

It said the source was not authorized to speak to the media and therefore wished to remain anonymous.

The delivery of this shipment sparked diplomatic controversy between South Africa and the United States when US Ambassador Reuben Brigety told reporters the arms transaction had involved South Africa supplying weaponry to Russia.

However, South Africa has insisted no permit had been issued for supplying arms to Russia.

Brigety has since apologized for any “misimpressions” his allegations have caused — but has not officially withdrawn them.

Lady R shipment

Citing its source, Sunday Times reported that the order for these weapons had been placed before the Covid pandemic.

They were reportedly procured from Rosoboronexport — the Russian state entity that exports military hardware, services, and technologies — and the transaction was approved by the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), which oversees weapons sales in South Africa.

Armscor was given a permit for this transaction, which had to be renewed three times due to delivery delays.

“It is routine that a permit can be renewed, but, obviously, conditions that existed when it was renewed must not have changed,” said the source.

Following Brigety’s accusations, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would appoint an inquiry into the matter that would be led by a retired judge. However, he is yet to do so.

South Africa unlikely to face US sanctions

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has confirmed that South Africa has solved the tense situation with the US and does not expect to face any repercussions.

“A number of actions were taken in order to ensure that our relationship with the US remains and that relationship should be normal and cordial,” said Godongwana last Sunday.

While the Lady R saga may be resolved, there is still tension between South Africa and the US relating to the former’s refusal to take a stance on Russia’s war with Ukraine.

South Africa has a strategic partnership with Russia, partly due to their affiliation through BRICS.

Rampahosa spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, too, discussing the “strategic partnership” between the countries ahead of a Russia-Africa summit in July, and a BRICS summit that South Africa will host in August.

Foreign affairs minister Naledi Pandor has said that South Africa opposes any violation of a sovereign country’s borders by another.

However, Pandor also said South Africa’s foreign policy is that conflict must be resolved through dialogue, not the escalation of hostilities.


Now read: Russia arms supply row “unlikely” to trigger US sanctions against South Africa

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Russian ship delivered weapons to South Africa, not the other way around — report