The US ambassador to South Africa on Thursday accused the South African government of delivering arms and ammunition to a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel late last year, local media said.
“Among the things we noted was the docking of the cargo ship in Simon’s Town naval base between the 6th to the 8th of December 2022, which we are confident uploaded weapons and ammunition onto that vessel in Simon’s Town as it made its way back to Russia,” Ambassador Reuben Brigety II told local media, including News24.com.
“We are confident that weapons were loaded onto that vessel, and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” the ambassador also said in a video released by Newzroom Afrika, a local news channel that was also at the briefing.
“The arming of the Russians is extremely serious, and we do not consider this issue to be resolved, and we would like SA to [begin] practising its non-alignment policy,” he said, according to both news outlets.
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The presence of the mysterious ‘Lady R’ cargo vessel caused significant speculation when it docked at the naval base in Simon’s Town near Cape Town in December last year. Cargo vessels routinely dock at Cape Town’s civilian harbor, not the naval base.
At the time, opposition member of parliament and shadow Defense Minister Kobus Marais said in a statement that goods were offloaded from the ship and onloaded onto the ship during the overnight hours and demanded answers from the government.
The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control added the Lady R to its sanctions list in May last year for alleged weapons shipments, along with a host of other Russian-flagged cargo vessels.
The South African presidency called the explosive allegations “disappointing” and warned that the remarks “undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership” between the US and South African government officials who had been discussing the matter.