The U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, made a startling accusation on Thursday, accusing South Africa of providing weapons and ammunition to Russia for its involvement in the war in Ukraine.
Ambassador Brigety revealed during a news conference in Pretoria that a cargo ship, identified as the Lady R, linked to a sanctioned company, secretly docked at a naval base near Cape Town in December, allegedly transporting military equipment to Russia.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that an investigation into the visit of the Russian vessel to the country’s main naval base was already underway with the assistance of U.S. intelligence services even before Ambassador Brigety’s public announcement.
However, President Ramaphosa’s office stated that there was currently “no evidence” to support the allegations of arms being loaded onto the Lady R.
Ambassador Brigety expressed the seriousness of the situation, stating, “The arming of the Russians is extremely serious, and we do not consider this issue to be resolved,” as reported by various South African news outlets.
He raised concerns about South Africa’s supposed neutral stance on the conflict in Ukraine and its calls for an end to the war.
If the allegations are substantiated, it could have far-reaching consequences for the relationship between the United States and South Africa, a key partner in Africa.
Despite South Africa’s neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict, the Biden administration had hoped for its support in countering the growing influence of Russia and China on the African continent.
The Lady R, the vessel in question, is linked to a company that was sanctioned by the U.S. last year for its involvement in transporting military equipment for the Russian government, according to The Associated Press.
While President Ramaphosa’s office confirmed the docking of the Lady R in South Africa, no further details were provided regarding the timing, location, or purpose of the vessel’s visit.
The statement also criticized Ambassador Brigety for making the accusations public.
During a parliamentary session in Cape Town, opposition leader John Steenhuisen confronted President Ramaphosa about the allegations of weapons and ammunition.
The president responded that the matter was under investigation and would be addressed in due course, refraining from further comment.
The investigation into these serious allegations carries significant implications for South Africa’s international reputation and its relationship with the United States.
The unfolding developments will be closely monitored as the truth behind the accusations is sought and diplomatic consequences are assessed.