South African President appoints panel to investigate allegations of Russian ship collecting weapons

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

28th May 2023 – (Cape Town) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a three-member panel to investigate allegations that a Russian ship collected weapons from a naval base near Cape Town last year. This comes after the United States alleged that the ship docked at the Simon’s Town naval base in December 2021 and took aboard weapons from South Africa.

The allegations have caused a diplomatic row between the U.S., South Africa, and Russia, and called into question South Africa’s non-aligned position on the Ukraine conflict. South Africa denies the allegations and says it is impartial, having abstained from voting on United Nations resolutions on the war.

The President decided to establish the inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest, and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations,” said the presidency in a statement.

The three-member panel will be chaired by Phineas Mojapelo, former deputy judge president of Gauteng province, and will have six weeks to conduct its investigation. The other two members are Advocate Leah Gcabashe, who was the former evidence leader for a state corruption inquiry that ended last year, and Enver Surty, the former deputy minister of basic education.

The terms of reference for the panel include establishing who was aware of the cargo ship‘s arrival, the contents that were loaded and off-loaded, and whether constitutional, legal, or other obligations were complied with in relation to thecargo ship’s arrival.

President Ramaphosa is expected to receive a final report within two weeks of the investigation’s conclusion. The allegations have raised concerns about South Africa’s compliance with international obligations related to arms control and non-proliferation.

The investigation will be closely watched by the international community, as it has significant implications for South Africa’s foreign relations with the U.S. and Russia. It is hoped that the panel will be able to provide a clear and objective assessment of the allegations, and that the findings will help to resolve the diplomatic tensions between the three countries.