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South Africa finds no proof for US ambassador’s accusation it supplied weapons to Russia

A judicial probe uncovered no evidence to back up allegations that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa appointed Judge Phineas Mojapelo to lead a panel to investigate claims made by the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, that the weapons were loaded onto a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, that docked in the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December.

Brigety had told media during a briefing he would “bet my life” on the claim that weapons had been loaded onto the Lady R.

The claim sparked fears of a diplomatic fall between South Africa and its second-largest trading partner that could potentially cost it its preferential access to American markets, and the rand tumbled to a record low against the dollar.

South Africa’s government says it has adopted a non-aligned position toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and refused to back United Nations resolutions sanctioning Moscow.

Brigety has stood accused within South Africa of failing to follow proper diplomatic protocol and the government has faced calls to expel him.

“The allegations leveled against our country had a most damaging effect on our currency, economy and our standing in the world and tarnished our image,” the president said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.

“During the course of its work, the panel visited Simonstown naval base and obtained evidence under oath from nearly 50 people in every relevant component of government,” Ramaphosa said.

He said over 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,” the president continued.

“Many of those invited either failed to do so or said they had no independent knowledge of the relevant facts.”

Reuben Brigety, US Ambassador to South Africa

“The panel found no evidence that any cargo of weapons was loaded for export on the ship, the Lady R.”

Ramaphosa said the panel established the Lady R docked at Simonstown to deliver equipment that had been ordered for the South African National Defence Force in 2018 by Armscor, the country’s arms procurement company.

“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,” Ramaphosa stated.

“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.”

Ramaphosa said South Africa has clear laws that regulate the import and export of conventional arms.

“All relevant permits had been obtained for the importation of the equipment that were delivered by the ship. No permit was issued for the export of arms and no arms were exported,” he said.

The president said the panel did not find any evidence of criminal conduct by anyone involved.

“However, the panel made findings and recommendations with respect to the functioning of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee,” he said.

“It also made recommendations about the improvement of communication between Ministers and government officials, including the adequacy of the relevant administrative processes.”

Ramaphosa said he wouldn’t release the full report because some of the information it contained is classified, but that he will release an executive summary on Monday.

Reporting with Bloomberg.

Now read: US apologizes for accusing South Africa of supplying weapons to Russia

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