Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise has revealed the Russian vessel that docked in Simon’s Town had delivered equipment that had been ordered by the South African National Defence Force before Covid-19.
Modise said the equipment was ordered during the 2018/19 financial year, but it could not be delivered because of the outbreak of the pandemic.
She denied allegations made by US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety that the ship loaded weapons that were sent to Russia.
She said President Cyril Ramaphosa has set up an investigation, chaired by retired Judge Phineas Mojapelo, and parties who want to make submissions can approach the inquiry.
Modise, was replying to written parliamentary questions from DA MPs Kobus Marais and Dianne Kohler Barnard and IFP MP Inkosi Russel Cebekhulu, on the Russian ship.
She said Ramaphosa had to set up the inquiry to clear up the air.
“As stated in many previous public statements and I reiterate that nothing was loaded onto Lady R, but rather, Lady R was delivering equipment that was ordered by SANDF pre–Covid in 2018/19. When the pandemic struck it affected every aspect of our lives and things came to a standstill. Thus the delay delivery of the equipment. We want to reiterate that the order for such a delivery stands and that there was no export of anything from our entities through Lady R,” said Modise.
“However, as stated in previous public statements, no arms were loaded and transported to Russia.
“Due to the serious nature of these allegations, the extent of public interest and the negative implications for South Africa’s international standing, the president of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the docking of Lady R in Simon’s Town,” said Modise.
South Africa has been engaged in efforts to talk to the US to give them assurance that it never supplied arms to Russia.
As recently as last week Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel met with their counterparts in the US and other senior lawmakers to give them assurance of Pretoria’s non-aligned position in the war in Ukraine.
The South Africa delegation was also seeking to get support from the US for the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The three ministers also met with Senator Chris Coons who is one of the lawmakers who wrote to top Biden administration officials that the AGOA summit must be moved away from South Africa to another country.
This is due to allegations of the Lady R saga. The summit is to take place in November.
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, Godongwana and Patel will also lead another delegation to the G7 nations over the Russian issue to assure them that South Africa was non-aligned in the conflict.