The US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, has accused the country of providing weapons and ammunition to Russia for its war in Ukraine. The accusation made by the ambassador has caused a stir in the country’s political circles.
The accusation stems from the discovery of a Russian cargo ship, Lady R, that docked at a naval base near Cape Town for three days in December of last year.
Ambassador Brigety has alleged that the US is certain that the weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Lady R at the Simon’s Town naval base before being transported to Russia. This has led to questions being raised in South Africa’s parliament, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that an investigation is underway.
Ramaphosa was answering questions in Parliament when news of Brigety’s comments broke. When a lawmaker asked about the weapons and ammunition, the president replied that “the matter is being looked into, and in time we will be able to speak about it.” He declined to comment further, citing the need for an investigation to play out.
The leader of the political opposition, John Steenhuisen, has asked the president if South Africa is “actively arming Russian soldiers who are murdering and maiming innocent people.”
He has also asked if Ramaphosa could confirm that “weapons of war” were loaded onto the Russian ship.
Ammunition supplies have reportedly become a problem for Russia in the war, with the leader of the Russian private army Wagner allegedly complaining of dire shortages last week.
The Lady R and a Russian company tied to it, Transmorflot LLC, were sanctioned by the US last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for being involved in the transportation of military equipment and weapons.
In response to Ambassador Brigety’s comments, Ramaphosa’s office issued a statement acknowledging that the Lady R had docked in South Africa, but did not disclose where or the purpose of the stop.
The statement criticized the American ambassador for going public and stated that there was an agreement for US intelligence services to provide any evidence they have to aid South Africa’s investigation.
The accusations made by Ambassador Brigety are considered “extremely serious” and have called into question South Africa’s supposed neutral stance. The investigation is ongoing, and further details are expected to emerge in due course.