S African President Ramaphosa appoints panel to investigate alleged supply of arms to Russia

Johannesburg, May 29 (PTI): President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a three-member independent panel headed by a retired judge to investigate US allegations that South Africa had supplied arms to Russia.

The US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, earlier this month accused the South African government of delivering arms and ammunition to a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel late last year, local media said.

“Among the things, we noted was the docking of the cargo ship in Simon’s Town naval base between the 6th to the 8th of December 2022, which we are confident uploaded weapons and ammunition onto that vessel in Simon’s Town as it made its way back to Russian,” Ambassador Brigety said during a media briefing at his offices in Pretoria.

Brigety later apologised for his remarks after a public outcry about the alleged arms supply to Russia, which was denied by South African officials. Other senior officials later claimed that items had been offloaded from the ship, rather than loading the ship, but no details were provided.

Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that he would establish an independent inquiry.

Judge P M D Mojapelo, a former Supreme Court of Appeal judge, was appointed chairman of a three-member panel to investigate the incident, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement on Sunday. A lawyer and a former minister of justice were also appointed.

They have been tasked with investigating the circumstances of the docking of the Russian vessel known as Lady R in South Africa’s naval base at Simonstown in the Western Cape province in December 2022.

“Through this inquiry, Government seeks to establish the circumstances that led to the docking of the ship and the alleged loading of cargo, and the departure of the Lady R cargo ship from Simonstown, during the period from 6 to 9 December 2022,” the Presidency said in a statement.

“The President decided to establish the enquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations,” it said.

The panel will also establish if any persons were aware of the cargo ship’s arrival, and, if any, the contents to be off-loaded or loaded, the departure and destination of the cargo.

Furthermore, the panel will evaluate whether constitutional, legal or other obligations were complied with in relation to the cargo ship’s arrival, its stay, the loading or off-loading of its contents, and its departure.

The panel’s report will include recommendations on any steps that may need to be taken in light of their findings or as a result of any breaches that may have occurred.

The panel will report directly to the President and will be supported administratively by personnel in The Presidency assigned to this task by the Director-General in The Presidency.

The panel has been given six weeks to conclude its investigations and is expected to submit its report to the President within a fortnight thereafter.

Tensions between South Africa and the US escalated and the rand went into freefall after Brigety’s allegations, further hammering an already battling economy trying to recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni made a strong statement on the matter after Brigety’s allegations.

Ramaphosa and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Naledi Pandor have repeatedly said that South Africa remains neutral in its stance on the Ukraine-Russia war, and would not be forced into taking sides. PTI FH NSA NSA

(This story is published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. No editing has been done in the headline or the body by ABP Live.)