“Shocking Revelation: South Africa Tied to Russian Weaponry via Accusation from US Ambassador!”

What a perplexing turn of events! The United States envoy to South Africa has thrown accusations at a secretly militant South Africa supplying arms to Russia. This incensed Pretoria and resulted in a heavy rebuke. Ambassador Reuben Brigety formally claimed that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto a Russian cargo ship in December last year, which docked at a naval base in Cape Town. “We are confident that weapons were loaded onto that vessel and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that claim,” Brigety boldly asserted in a video statement. He added that the arming of Russia by South Africa is “fundamentally unacceptable.”

The shock waves of this accusation were felt in Pretoria, with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office hitting back. “Disappointing” was a notable comment by Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya, saying Brigety had “taken a counterproductive public stance”.

“While no evidence has been provided to support these allegations, the government has committed to launching an independent inquiry to be led by a retired judge.”

The United States State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel, on the other hand, took a noticeably softer tone and welcomed the promise of an investigation. Patel pointed out that the US remains committed to its positive agenda with South Africa in the domains of public health, climate, and trade, however, refrained from spelling out any consequences for South Africa, following repeated US threats to punish China should it send arms to Russia.

In a complex diplomatic tightrope, South Africa, historically viewed as a moral authority due to its victory over apartheid, wants to remain neutral over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, advocating dialogue to end the war. But critics cite a number of recent incidents as evidence of an anti-Kremlin tilt. For instance, earlier this year, South Africa held a joint military exercise with Russia and China, and last month, a sanctioned Russian military cargo plane landed at an air force base in the middle of the night to deliver what defense officials described as “diplomatic mail.”

The ambassador’s comments appeared to allude to a previously known episode, where the Lady R, a cargo ship under Western sanctions flying the Russian flag, docked at the largest naval base in South Africa. “Among the things we noted was the docking of the cargo ship in the Simon’s Town naval base between 6th and 8th December 2022, which we believe loaded weapons and ammunition onto that ship in Simon’s Town as it made its way back to Russia,” said the envoy, according to news agency News24.

Stuck in the middle, the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), accused the government of trampling on South Africa’s values and interests, “in favor of a global warmonger and despot” and warned of “huge consequences.”

The situation has resulted in a burst of market volatility, with the rand, which had softened against the dollar in recent days, falling sharply to a three-year low after news of the ambassador’s comments spread.

South Africa has strong economic and trade ties with the US and Europe. Yet, it has advocated multilateralism as a counterweight to a US-led international order, also being a member of BRICS, a grouping that brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Furthermore, in March, it faced a diplomatic dilemma after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is due to attend a BRICS summit in South Africa in August. Such a decision would mean that Pretoria would have to detain Putin upon arrival, forcing President Cyril Ramaphosa to say last month that the ANC had decided that South Africa would leave the ICC. However, he backtracked hours later, citing “communication error.”

The Eurasia Group, a think tank, said in a note that Brigety’s comments were likely an attempt “to influence South Africa to change its neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.”

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