President Cyril Ramaphosa has responded to the allegations that South Africa allegedly exported weapon to Russia aboard the Lady R, a Russian Vessel that docked in Simon’s Town in December last year.1 The president appointed former Supreme Court Judge Phineus Mojapelo to chair a three-member independent panel tasked with investigating the veracity of the allegations that were put forward by US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety.2 Mojapelo will be assisted by advocate Leah Gcabashe and former basic education deputy minister Enver Surty in this investigation.3 The time frame for this investigation is six weeks.4 In a statement made on Sunday, the Presidency said government seeks to establish the circumstances that led to docking of the ship, the alleged loading of cargo, and the departure of the Lady R Cargo ship from Simon’s Town, during the period of 6-9 December 2022.5
Spokesman for the presidency Vincent Magwenya spoke this during the statement: “The president decided to establish the inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest, and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations.”6
Meanwhile the business sector has raised concerns about South Africa’s foreign policy in relation to Russia and its war in Ukraine could do untold damage to country’s already crippled economy.7
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According to the City Press, even more CEOs and business leaders are scheduled to meet the president in the coming weeks to discuss the same matters. The paper said the business leaders from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) met with the president this week to discuss the fallout of allegations made by the United States that SA had a hand in aiding Russia. The US embassy earlier this month alleged that South Africa had supplied ammunition to Russia – a country currently at war with Ukraine following an invasion of the latter in February 2022. The fallout of the allegations was immediate, tanking the rand and putting many multinationals on edge, fearing sanctions or being booted out of beneficial trade agreements with the United States – one of South Africa’s biggest trade partners. The South African government has denied the allegations. It has launched an independent investigation into the matter, all while insisting it is neutral and not aligned with any side in the conflict. Despite what the government says, however, markets, Western nations and business leaders are simply not convinced, as statements, utterances, and even policy standpoints from the African National Congress (ANC) lean firmly into pro-Russia territory. (Business leaders send a stern warning to Ramaphosa)
The American Ambassador Brigety may have been wrong to claim South Africa had sold weapons to Moscow and should resign his position. The role of ambassador should be that of a liaison officer between his nation and the country hosting him, to improve friendship. This is what Mr. Brigety has failed to do. He has offered no evidence to support his claims and has sent our country’s markets into chaos. When the legal inquest by the panel appointed by Ramaphosa finds there is no evidence to support Brigety’s claims he should be sent packing to his superiors in the State Department at Washington DC to answer why he made the embarrassing statement. Then Pretoria should demand an apology from Washington for the accusation(s).
At a time when our country is facing heavy inflation and a higher cost of living because of this war Russia is fighting in Ukraine why would we send them weapons? South Africa is right to remain neutral and call for peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow. Why would Pretoria be willing to supply ammunition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces when all it gains is an extension of a miserable war? South Africa has enough problems on its own plate to deal with, especially Load shedding, government corruption, state capture and the extradition of the Gupta brothers from Dubai. We don’t need any helpings from Brigety’s conspiracy theories. Only time will tell how this investigation will play out.