South Africa says no evidence of arms shipment to Russia

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said on Sunday an independent panel found no evidence that the country sold weapons to Russia.

The US ambassador to South Africa had claimed a Russian ship, Lady R, was loaded with arms near Cape Town last December.

Ambassador Reuben Brigety made the allegation in May, saying the ship docked at Simon’s Town Naval Base and then transported the arms to Russia.

“None of the allegations made about the supply of weapons to Russia have been proven to be true,” Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

South Africa — which has abstained from voting on UN resolutions on Russia’s war in Ukraine — has said it’s wanted to remain impartial over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

So the allegations were particularly problematic for the government, which said it supports a mediated settlement to the war.

Ramaphosa ordered an independent panel led by a retired judge to investigate the matter shortly after Brigety’s remarks.

“The allegations leveled against our country had a most damaging effect on our currency, our economy, and our standing in the world, in fact, it tarnished our image,” the South African president said on Sunday.

The panel visited Simon’s Town Naval Base, obtained evidence under oath from nearly 50 people, and more than 100 documents were submitted.

However, Ramaphosa said, “none of the persons who made these allegations could provide any evidence to support the claims that had been levelled against our country.”

The US embassy did not immediately react to Ramaphosa’s address.

The panel found the Lady R docked at the base to deliver equipment ordered for the South African National Defense Force in 2018 before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ramaphosa said he could not reveal details of the equipment offloaded because that could compromise critical military operations and put South African soldiers’ lives at risk.

Some media reports had suggested it was weapons South African special forces used in anti-terror operations in Mozambique.

So, the panel’s full report won’t be released publicly, instead, the president would release an executive summary of the report on Monday.