Ramaphosa fails to deny that South Africa supplied arms to Russia for Ukraine war

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government is probing allegations that his country had supplied weapons and ammunition to Russia, despite Pretoria having taken a neutral stance on its invasion of Ukraine.

Ramaphosa’s comments followed the publication of a News24 report citing Reuben Brigety, the American ambassador to South Africa, as saying the armaments were collected by a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, that docked at the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December.

The Cape Town-based website didn’t specify what weapons the US believed had been collected.

“The matter is being looked into and in time we will be able to speak about it,” Ramaphosa told lawmakers in Cape Town on Thursday.

The rand, which had already been under pressure because of ongoing energy shortages, extended declines against the dollar following the publication of the News 24 report. It was 2% lower at 19.2473 to the greenback at 4:18 p.m. in Johannesburg.

Relations between South Africa and the US have soured over Pretoria’s insistence that it was taking a non-aligned stance toward Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The former Soviet Union supported the ruling African National Congress during the decades-long struggle against apartheid and the party has maintained ties to Russia’s current leaders since the end of White-minority rule in 1994.

In December 2022, Defense Minister Thandi Modise said she was still awaiting paperwork on the contents of the Lady R, but that the goods that were loaded on it pertained to an order placed before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The reason America is “interested in that vessel coming to our shores is actually because America threatens the rest of Africa, not just South Africa, of having anything that is even smelling of Russia,” Modise said.

The US took the arming of the Russians extremely seriously and the issue remained unresolved, News24 cited Brigety as telling reporters following his return from the US with a South African delegation that sought to ensure that the country retained its preferential trade access to American markets.

The US embassy in South Africa declined to comment.

Now read: US senator berates South African navy over exercises with Russia

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Ramaphosa fails to deny that South Africa supplied arms to Russia for Ukraine war