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Ramaphosa refuses to disclose equipment delivered by Russian ship for security reasons

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would not disclose the equipment that was offloaded from the Russian ship. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would not disclose the equipment that was offloaded from the Russian ship. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 12, 2023


President Cyril Ramaphosa has refused to disclose the equipment that was offloaded from the Russian vessel that docked in Simon’s Town last December and warned that this would compromise national security.

Ramaphosa said he was satisfied with the findings of the panel, chaired Judge Phineas Mojapelo that found there was nothing illegal about the delivery of equipment.

However, the report said the nature of the goods that were offloaded would not be disclosed for national security reasons. The goods were ordered by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Russia in 2018 but could not be delivered on time because of Covid-19.

Ramaphosa, who was answering questions in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday, said he would not disclose the nature of the equipment to protect the country.

If he did, it would expose the military, said Ramaphosa.

“The panel made no finding of involvement by ‘clandestine parties’ or illegal transactions, and no evidence has been presented to contradict the panel’s findings.

“The contents of the shipment carried on the Lady R are kept secret so as not to compromise the work or the safety of our security forces. I have no intention of compromising this under any circumstances,” said Ramaphosa.

The National Conventional Arms Control Act prohibits the disclosure of controlled items.

This was done to protect the military, he said.

Ramaphosa said he supports the report and its findings. They were busy implementing the recommendations of the report.

The docking of the Russian ship had caused a diplomatic fallout between South Africa and the US after its ambassador, Reuben Brigety, claimed early this year that Pretoria sold arms to Moscow.

This was denied by Ramaphosa and his Cabinet.

Ramaphosa’s national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, and other senior officials in government travelled to the US several times to outline South Africa’s non-aligned position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The tensions also threatened to scupper South Africa’s chance to host the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) summit in Johannesburg in November.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced a few weeks ago with Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel that South Africa will host the Agoa summit.

Top US Congressmen had written to the Biden administration to take the Agoa summit away from South Africa after Brigety made the allegations.

But Pretoria and Washington ironed out their differences after the report by the panel was released and cleared the government of wrongdoing.

Ramaphosa told the NCOP that he would not disclose the nature of the goods that were offloaded by the Russian ship for security reasons.

“They have come up with a report, and the report contains the truthfulness of the events as they reported them. Those issues have to do with national security. I have decided to keep them away from public scrutiny because they deal with national security. What has that got to do with? It’s got to do with equipment that is used by our security forces, who risk their lives to defend this country.

"I am not about to reveal the things that they use to defend the people of South Africa so that they themselves become vulnerable and the people of South Africa become vulnerable. That I have said I will not do because my duty is to make sure that the security forces defend the people of this country with the means that they have. They have been given the means, and those means must not make them and South Africa vulnerable,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the inquiry had found that no law was breached when the Russian vessel offloaded the equipment in Simon’s Town. But there were administrative and technical issues that were not met, and they were addressing these issues, said Ramaphosa.

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