In the wake of allegations suggesting South Africa’s involvement in a weapons sale to Russia, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that a three-member panel found no evidence to substantiate these claims.
Origins of the Allegations
The United States Ambassador to South Africa made the controversial claims in May, leading to significant diplomatic tensions. In response, Ramaphosa established a panel of inquiry to delve into the matter. This panel was chaired by former Supreme Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo and included Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC and former deputy minister of basic education, Enver Surty.
During a national address on Sunday, Ramaphosa expressed his concerns over the impact of these allegations on South Africa’s global standing and economy. He stated,
In recent months, several quarters have used these allegations to call into question South Africa’s commitment to its position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The allegations levelled against our country had the most damaging effect on our currency, our economy and our standing in the world. In fact, it tarnished our image as a country.
The Investigation’s Findings
The allegations primarily revolved around weapons purportedly loaded onto the Russian cargo vessel, Lady R, when it docked at Simon’s Town Naval Base in Cape Town in December of the previous year. The panel, after a thorough investigation, found these claims to be baseless.
The report, which was handed over to Ramaphosa, stated,
A number of entities and persons that had publicly claimed to have information on this matter were invited to make submissions to the panel. Many of those invited either failed to do so, or said they had no independent knowledge of the relevant facts. From its investigation, the panel found no evidence that any cargo of weapons was loaded for export onto the ship Lady R. The panel found that there was no evidence to support the claim that the ship transported weapons from South Africa destined for Russia.
Reactions to the Findings
The allegations had previously stirred a diplomatic storm, with Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, stating that the South African government was seeking recourse through established diplomatic channels.
Furthermore, ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula expressed his disbelief and frustration over the claims. He emphasized,
How can we give weapons to Russia? It is Russia that should give South Africa weapons, and it has now been proven that we didn’t give weapons to Russia, and we still don’t understand why this man (Brigety) is still here in South Africa.
The findings of the panel have now provided clarity on the matter, reaffirming South Africa’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its commitment to transparency in international relations.