The investigation rejects US allegations that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia

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An investigation in South Africa has rejected US allegations that the country supplied weapons to a Russian ship under US sanctions that was moored at a naval base in Cape Town, after the accusation endangered relations between the US and Africa’s largest industrial economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that the investigation had “concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the ship transported arms from South Africa destined for Russia” as the US ambassador to Pretoria alleged this year.

He added, “All things considered, none of the allegations related to supplying weapons to Russia have been proven true.” “None of the people who made these claims have been able to provide any evidence to support these claims.”

The Lady R, owned by Russia’s MG-FLOT, docked at Simon’s Town in December under mysterious circumstances, including apparently shutting down its transponder signal. South Africa’s Ministry of Defense said at the time that the ship was carrying cargo for the country’s armed forces.

Ambassador Robin Brigetti claimed in May that the US government was confident that the ship had “also loaded weapons and ammunition” in Cape Town on its way back to Russia, although there was no official approval from the South African government for arms exports to Russia or Ukraine. Since the start of the war. .

The allegation unleashed a diplomatic firestorm on the Ramaphosa government, which has said it was unbiased on the war in Ukraine, and rocked South African financial markets as trade ties linking South Africa’s key export industries with the United States were suddenly called into question.

“The accusations leveled against our country have had a detrimental effect on our currency, our economy and our standing in the world,” Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

Brighetti and the US government did not provide details of the indictment evidence, but Ramaphosa’s government was also unable to categorically deny it, which led to the appointment of an investigative committee headed by a retired judge to investigate.

The claim came after growing frustration in Washington over South Africa’s relations with Russia, such as joint naval exercises on the anniversary of the war and what was seen as evasiveness by Pretoria in condemning the invasion.

But the Biden administration has since moved to ease relations with the United States’ largest trading partner in Africa, one of a number of non-aligned nations that Washington has sought to pressure over the war in order to challenge Russia’s narrative on the conflict.

On Sunday, the US State Department said it appreciated the “seriousness” of the commission’s investigation into Ms. R. The State Department added that it had been “in direct contact” with the Ramaphosa government and would continue talks through diplomatic channels.

“We appreciate President Ramaphosa’s commitment to investigating this serious matter and look forward to fostering progress with our South African partners on our shared priorities, including trade, health and climate,” the State Department said.

Ramaphosa also sent ministers and advisers to Capitol Hill in an effort to stop the withdrawal of trade preferences favoring South African access to American markets. From then on, he took a larger role in African diplomacy during the war, paying visits to Kiev and Moscow.

Ramaphosa said on Sunday that the investigation into the Lady R had confirmed that the vessel supplied equipment to the South African armed forces. He added that the full report of the investigation would not be published due to the need for military security over the handover, but an executive summary would be issued on Monday.

Ramaphosa said the investigative committee visited the naval base, heard from nearly 50 people and reviewed more than 100 documents.

The US Embassy in Pretoria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States imposed sanctions on MG-FLOT near the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, over what it said was the use of the company’s shipments to transport weapons for the Russian government.

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