South Africa has strongly refuted claims made by the United States that it supplied arms to Russia during the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. The South African government has categorically denied any official record of arms sales to Russia and stated that it will not be bullied by the US. Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, emphasized that South Africa is a sovereign and independent state and will not tolerate attempts to treat it as a subordinate entity.
The accusations were made by US Ambassador Reuben Brigety, who claimed that a Russian vessel named Lady R was loaded with weapons at the Simonstown naval base in South Africa late last year. However, the South African government has launched an independent inquiry into the matter and vowed to take decisive action if any wrongdoing is found.
Ntshavheni highlighted that South Africa complies with its own Conventional Arms Control Act, which prohibits the use of locally manufactured arms in conflicts that impact civilians, especially women and children. The country maintains strict oversight and regulations regarding arms sales.
In response to the allegations, the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has decided to demarche Ambassador Brigety, and Minister Naledi Pandor is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to address the situation diplomatically. Ntshavheni criticized the ambassador’s approach, stating that concerns should be raised through proper diplomatic channels rather than public accusations.
South Africa has affirmed that it has no sanctions against Russia and does not wish to be entangled in disputes between the US and Russia or China. The country has consistently adopted a neutral stance in the conflict, abstaining from voting on a UN resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
These recent events have strained relations between South Africa and the US, which views the African nation as a crucial partner on the continent. South Africa has sought to maintain its independent foreign policy, hosting talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and engaging in joint naval drills with Russia and China.
As the situation unfolds, concerns arise over the potential impact on trade between South Africa and the US, given their significant economic ties. The depreciation of the South African rand against the dollar raises further uncertainty. The US considers South Africa a gateway to the African continent, adding complexity to the diplomatic rift.
While South Africa faces international pressure, including calls for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes, the country remains firm in asserting its sovereignty and independent relationships with various nations.