South African president appoints judge to oversee weapons-for-Russia inquiry
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a judge to oversee an inquiry into allegations that the country supplied arms to Russia on a ship that docked secretly at a naval base in December.
The allegations were made this month by the United States' ambassador to South Africa, who said he was sure that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Russian-flagged cargo ship Lady R when it docked at the Simon's Town naval base near Cape Town late last year.
Ambassador Reuben Brigety indicated that the US had intelligence to sustain the allegation and he said he would bet his life on the accuracy of his claim that weapons were loaded onto the ship.
The Lady R container-carrying ship is under US sanctions for being tied to a company that has transported weapons to aid the Russian war effort in Ukraine.
South Africa has denied there was any government-sanctioned deal to provide weapons to Russia, although it hasn't categorically ruled out that an unofficial transaction took place involving another entity.
Judge P.M.D. Mojapelo, a former Supreme Court of Appeal judge, was appointed chairman of a three-member panel to investigate the incident, Ramaphosa's office said in a statement on Sunday. A lawyer and a former minister of justice were also appointed.
The panel has six weeks to complete its investigations and another two weeks from then to provide a report to Ramaphosa, the president's office said.
“The panel has been tasked to establish persons who were aware of the cargo ship's arrival, and, if any, the contents to be off-loaded or loaded, the departure and destination of the cargo,” Ramaphosa's office said.
Ramaphosa ordered the inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations and “the impact of this matter on South Africa's international relations,” his office said.
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