SA, US diplomatic storm: Presidency says independent inquiry to probe docking of Russian vessel
Government has taken the decision to institute an independent inquiry into the docking of a Russian ship at Simon’s Town naval base and apparently leaving the country’s shores loaded with weapons, the Presidency announced on Thursday.
“While no evidence has been provided to date to support these allegations, the government has instituted an independent inquiry to be led by a retired judge,” said Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya.
This is after US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety told media in Pretoria on Thursday that Washington had established the vessel was loaded with weapons while docked at the naval base.
There was controversy when the vessel docked, with Pretoria silent on its activities in South African waters. Brigety said this was one of the issues of “concern” raised by US senior officials with a high-level South African delegation that visited the US recently. Brigety said it would be “a mistake to underestimate the concerns in Washington”.
Ramaphosa was quizzed on the matter by DA leader John Steenhuisen in parliament on Thursday.
Magwenya said Ramaphosa’s office noted with “concern” remarks attributed to Brigety alleging the supply by South Africa of weapons to Russia.
“The ambassador’s remarks undermine the spirit of co-operation and partnership that characterised the recent engagements between US government officials and a South African official delegation led by national security special adviser to the president Dr Sydney Mufumadi.”
Magwenya said it was 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.
“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.
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