A judicial probe uncovered no evidence to back up allegations that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
(Bloomberg) — A judicial probe uncovered no evidence to back up allegations that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa appointed Judge Phineas Mojapelo to lead a panel to investigate claims made by the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, that the weapons were loaded onto a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, that docked in the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December. The claim sparked fears of a diplomatic fallout between South Africa and its second-largest trading partner, jeopardizing its preferential access to American markets, and the rand tumbled to a record low against the dollar.
“The allegations leveled against our country had a most damaging effect on our currency, economy and our standing in the world and tarnished our image,” the president said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. “The panel found no evidence that any cargo of weapons was loaded for export on the ship, the Lady R.”
South Africa’s government says it has adopted a non-aligned position toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and refused to back United Nations resolutions sanctioning Moscow. Brigety has been accused within South Africa of failing to follow proper diplomatic protocol and the government has faced calls to expel him.
The US government said it shared certain information pertaining to the Lady R and its presence in South Africa in support of the investigation.
“We appreciate President Ramaphosa’s commitment to investigating this serious matter and look forward to advancing progress with our South African partners on our shared priorities, including trade, health, and climate,” David Feldmann, spokesman for the US Embassy in Pretoria, said in an emailed response to questions. “We will let South Africa speak for its panel’s conclusion.”
During the course of its work, the panel visited the Simon’s Town naval base, obtained evidence under oath from almost 50 people and examined more than 100 documents, and established that the Lady R delivered equipment that had been ordered for the defense force in 2018 by Armscor, the nation’s arms procurement company, according to Ramaphosa. While he declined to release the full report because some of the information it contained is classified, he said he will release an executive summary on Monday.
–With assistance from Paul Richardson.
(Updates with US Embassy comment from fourth paragraph.)
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