South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed an independent report that dismissed claims that his government provided Russia with weapons, saying it vindicated his country’s non-alignment policy.
In May, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, accused South Africa of “loading” weapons and ammunition onto a Russian vessel anchored at Simon’s Town, Western Cape, in December to help it fight its Eastern European neighbour Ukraine.
Last night, during his address to the nation on the outcomes of last week’s successful BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said the report was significant because Brigety’s false claims negatively impacted South Africa and Russia, members of BRICS.
Judge Phineas Mojapelo authored the report, assisted by advocate Leah Gcabashe SC and ANC veteran Enver Surty.
Ramaphosa stated that the report was significant because the false allegations negatively impacted South Africa and Russia, members of BRICS.
“In recent months, statements from 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, economy, and standing in the world. In fact, it tarnished our image as a country,” Ramaphosa said.
“To ensure that the docking of the Russian ship in Simonstown was thoroughly investigated, I appointed a three-member independent panel in May to inquire into the circumstances of the docking of this Russian vessel, known as Lady R.”
Ramaphosa also laid into politicians who supported Brigety’s allegations without mentioning the DA by name but failed to give Mojapelo’s panel supposedly available facts.
“During the course of its work, the panel visited Simon’s Town naval base and obtained evidence under oath from nearly 50 people in every relevant component of government. More than 100 documents were submitted to the panel for examination.
“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,” he said.
Instead, the panel determined that the ship docked at Simon’s Town to deliver equipment that Armscor, the country’s arms procurement agency, had ordered for the South African National Defence Force in 2018.
“In terms of the contract for the supply of the arms, neither Armscor nor the South African National Defence Force had any control over the means through which the supplier of the ordered equipment would transport them to South Africa.
“In its report, the panel outlined the circumstances that led to the docking of the vessel in Simonstown, as well as the type of goods supplied and the reasons why the goods were unloaded at the time they were offloaded,” he said.
However, the panel made findings and recommendations regarding the National Conventional Arms Control Committee’s operation.
In addition, the report made recommendations regarding improving communication channels between ministers and government officials and the adequacy of the administrative processes.
“Given the fact that the evidence given to the panel was classified and the fact that revealing the details of the equipment offloaded could jeopardize the work and safety of South Africa’s forces in various deployments on the continent, I have decided not to release the report.
“In deciding not to release the report, I have taken account of the laws that both mandate openness and transparency and require that certain information that may be prejudicial to the defense and security of the Republic be kept classified and confidential,” said Ramaphosa.
He added: “To reveal the details of the equipment offloaded would compromise important military operations and put our soldiers’ lives at risk. Under these circumstances, when lives would be at risk due to the revelation of the type of equipment that is utilized by our armed forces, the need for confidentiality is both necessary and justified.”
Ramaphosa stated that despite the report being classified, he is pleased that the allegations regarding the supply of weapons to Russia have been proven false.
“None of the persons who made these allegations could provide any evidence to support the claims that had been levelled against our country. I have noted the panel’s findings and recommendations with respect to the efficiency and efficacy of the relevant administrative and maritime transport processes and have directed that an implementation plan be developed to address these,” he stressed.
“Our policy of non-alignment and our efforts to build friendly relations with all countries is driven by a commitment to a world that is peaceful and stable. That is why we will continue to pursue a foreign policy that advances the interests of our country and the progress of our people.”