Ramaphosa to appoint retired judge to probe Russian ship

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 11, 2023


President Cyril Ramaphosa will appoint a retired judge to lead a probe into the docking of a Russian naval ship in the country that allegedly uploaded weapons and ammunition for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

This was after Ramaphosa slammed US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety II for going public on the matter.

He said the ambassador went public on the matter in spite of an agreement between the two countries that an investigation was under way.

Video: African News Agency (ANA)

This issue was also discussed when Ramaphosa’s national security adviser Sydney Mufamadi met with top Biden administration officials in Washington recently.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the conduct of Brigety was against the spirit of co-operation.

“It is public knowledge that a Russian vessel known as Lady R docked in South Africa. Allegations have since been made about the purpose of the voyage. While no evidence has been provided to date to support these allegations, the government has undertaken to institute an independent inquiry to be led by a retired judge.

“In recent engagements between the South African delegation and US officials, the Lady R matter was discussed and there was agreement that an investigation will be allowed to run its course and that the US intelligence services will provide whatever evidence in their possession.

“It is therefore disappointing that the US ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public posture that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very positive and constructive engagements between the two delegations,” said Magwenya.

A political analyst warned that the possible fallout between South Africa and the US could lead to the removal of the country from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Professor Bheki Mngomezulu from the Nelson Mandela University said South Africa could land in trouble with the US as it can remove it from Agoa.

However, it would be difficult for the US to impose sanctions on South Africa as it would have to seek support from its allies in the West as they did with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the war started in Ukraine last February.

The immediate threat would be Agoa.

Mngomezulu said South Africa would have a tough time when it came to Agoa.

“The threat is Agoa. They say if relations get sour between South Africa and the US they might not renew Agoa. The fact of the matter is that South Africa is a sovereign state and it takes its own decisions. If the ship was carrying weapons why didn’t they take it up with the ambassador at the time before it escalated?” asked Mngomezulu.

He said there was no reason for the US to be angry with South Africa.

There was no reason for the sanctions as there was no substance to the claims by the US ambassador. There needs to be evidence to back up these allegations, he said.

[email protected]

Current Affairs