The South African government has vehemently denied authorizing any arms sales to Russia since 2020, refuting allegations made by US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety. The US ambassador had claimed that South Africa sold arms to Russia through the US-sanctioned Russian naval vessel, the Lady R. However, Digital Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele, who also chairs the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), clarified that no such arms transfers have been approved since 2020.
Minister Gungubele emphasized that the NCACC, as the controlling authority for conventional arms control in South Africa, has not authorized any transfers to Russia. These statements came in response to concerns raised by IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa about potential illegal acts compromising state security and international relations.
To address the allegations and ensure a thorough investigation, the South African government announced the appointment of a retired judge, Phineas Mojapelo, to head a three-person panel. The panel has been given a six-week period to conduct a comprehensive investigation and deliver its findings. Minister Gungubele emphasized the importance of allowing the investigation to proceed independently and reach an informed ruling to settle the matter conclusively. The government has urged patience and respect for the investigative process.
Despite the allegations, it was reported last month that no evidence of arms being loaded onto the Lady R has been presented to the inquiry headed by Judge Mojapelo. The controversy stirred a political firestorm, with Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, expressing her disappointment at the timing of the accusations, especially in light of recent diplomatic efforts between South Africa and the United States. Minister Pandor stated that no further action would be taken regarding Ambassador Brigety’s removal following her discussions with him and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.