South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday (May 15) in a weekly newsletter that his country’s non-aligned position did not favour Russia while reiterating a call for a peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine.
Ramaphosa’s comments came after US allegations that weapons were loaded from a naval base in Cape Town in December onto a Russian ship called the ‘Lady R’, destined for use in Ukraine.
“We do not accept that our non-aligned position favours Russia above other countries. Nor do we accept that it should imperil our relations with other countries,” he said.
Last week the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben E Brigety II, who first voiced allegation regarding the Lady R, also said senior US officials had “profound concerns” over the country’s professed policy of non-alignment and neutrality over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ramaphosa has said there is no evidence backing up the allegations but promised an independent inquiry. In the presidential newsletter, he also pledged South Africa would continue to honour international agreements and treaties to which it is a signatory.
South Africa has abstained from voting on UN resolutions condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine, claiming impartiality, but Western countries consider South Africa among Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, noting the docking of the Lady R, along with a joint military exercise South Africa held with Russia and China in February 2023 and the landing of a sanctioned Russian military cargo plane in early May suggesting the country may be leaning towards the Kremlin.
South Africa will, in August 2023, host a summit of the BRICS nations whose other members are Brazil, Russia, India and China. Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, slapped with an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant in March for the Ukraine war, has accepted an invitation to the meeting. The host nation, a member of the ICC, has been called upon to arrest him if he physically attends the summit.