The US has accused South Africa of supplying arms to Russia in a covert naval operation, escalating a international coverage disaster for President Cyril Ramaphosa over the nation’s ties to the Kremlin and place on the Ukraine conflict.
Reuben Brigety, US ambassador to South Africa, informed native media on Thursday that the US believed weapons and ammunition have been loaded on to the Girl R, a Russian vessel below sanctions that docked at Simon’s City naval dockyard close to Cape City in December.
“Among the many issues we famous was the docking of the cargo ship . . . which we’re assured uploaded weapons and ammunition on to that vessel in Simon’s City because it made its means again to Russia,” he mentioned, in feedback reported by South Africa’s News24.
Brigety additionally mentioned that senior US officers had “profound issues” in regards to the incident, which “doesn’t counsel to us the actions of a non-aligned nation”.
The state division mentioned the US had raised the problem instantly with South African officers. Spokesman Vedant Patel mentioned: “The US has critical issues in regards to the docking of a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel at a South African naval port in December of final 12 months.”
“We have now been fairly clear and haven’t parsed phrases about any nation taking steps to help Russia’s unlawful and brutal conflict in Ukraine,” he added, “and we are going to proceed to have interaction with companions and international locations on this matter.”
Ramaphosa’s workplace responded by saying an unbiased inquiry can be arrange below a retired choose to look into the allegations. It additionally mentioned talks had been held between South African and US officers over the vessel and an settlement to permit investigations to proceed.
“It’s subsequently disappointing that the US ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public place that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very constructive and constructive engagements between the 2 delegations,” Ramaphosa’s workplace mentioned in a press release.
US anger highlights the mounting tensions between the west and international locations which have refused to sentence Russia over the conflict or be part of sanctions efforts.
Like South Africa, India has continued to treat Russia as a pleasant nation and western diplomats have struggled to persuade creating nations throughout Africa and Asia to again Ukraine. Brigety additionally criticised a decision from the ruling African Nationwide Congress, which mentioned “the US provoked the conflict with Russia over Ukraine”.
John Steenhuisen, chief of South Africa’s predominant opposition Democratic Alliance, known as for an pressing parliamentary debate on South Africa’s involvement with Russia, and mentioned that the US declare “brings into query the transparency” of the ANC.
The rand dropped 2 per cent to R19.20 to the US greenback after Brigety’s feedback, its weakest degree since April 2020.
South Africa has mentioned it’s non-aligned within the conflict, however Ramaphosa’s authorities is below stress over indicators it’s favouring Russia, for instance by holding joint naval workouts this 12 months.
Ramaphosa has additionally prolonged an invite for Russian president Vladimir Putin to attend a Brics leaders’ summit in Johannesburg in August — a transfer that has backfired on Pretoria after the Worldwide Legal Courtroom indicted Putin for conflict crimes. South Africa, a member of the ICC, can be legally obliged to arrest Putin if he travels there.
Sydney Mufamadi, Ramaphosa’s nationwide safety adviser, lately visited the US to clarify South Africa’s stance and to attempt to protect commerce hyperlinks.
The scandal over the Girl R is more likely to overshadow these efforts.
The Girl R, which is owned by Transmorflot, an organization positioned below sanctions by the US final 12 months, appeared to modify off its transponder because it made the cease in Cape City after a voyage down the west coast of Africa.
South Africa’s defence minister mentioned that, after the ship left port, it had delivered a consignment for the nation’s defence forces, however offered no particulars on what the vessel might have picked up in Cape City.
The South African authorities in January formally denied it had accepted any arms gross sales from South Africa to Russia since Moscow started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Further reporting by Mary McDougall in London