South Africa comes under more scrutiny over Russian ship as ruling ANC says it would ‘welcome’ Putin

The South African government was under more pressure on Wednesday for refusing to release cargo documents related to the voyage of a Russian ship that the United States accused of collecting an arms shipment bound for Moscow.

Separately, a top South African ruling party official added to the scrutiny of the country’s ties with Russia by saying the party would “welcome” a visit from President Vladimir Putin, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Is.

The comments were made by Fikile Mbalula, secretary-general of the African National Congress, in an interview with the BBC about Putin and in the context of the Russian leader attending the summit of the BRICS economic bloc in South Africa in August. The bloc is made up of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.

“If it were according to the ANC, we would want President Putin to be here tomorrow too, to visit our country,” Mabalula said in the interview, excerpts of which were posted on the ANC’s social media channels on Tuesday. We would welcome them to come here as part of BRICS.

As a signatory to the International Criminal Court treaty, South Africa is bound to arrest Putin upon entering the country. The South African government has indicated that it will not carry out the arrest warrant if Putin travels for the summit, although it has not explicitly said so.

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“Do you think the head of state can be arrested anywhere?” former cabinet minister Mabalula, who is now the ANC’s top administrative official, said in a BBC interview.

He told a BBC interviewer that there was hypocrisy on the part of the West concerning Putin’s arrest warrant because, he said, Britain and other Western countries committed crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and no head of state was arrested.

Mabalula last month referred to the United States as one of the countries “messing up the world”.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, there has been increasing anti-US and anti-Western rhetoric in the ANC and sometimes within parts of South Africa’s government, despite South Africa maintaining a neutral stance on the war.

The trend is troubling to the US and South Africa’s other Western partners because of its status as an influential democracy in the developing world and Africa’s most developed economy.

South Africa has a historical relationship with Russia linked to military and political support for the ANC of the old Soviet Union when it was a liberation movement fighting to end the racist apartheid regime that oppressed the country’s black majority Was. The West appears concerned that the ANC’s longstanding ideological ties with Russia are now drawing South Africa into Moscow’s political orbit amid rising global tensions. Economic ties between Africa and China, a continent of 1.3 billion people, are also on the rise.

The concerns were highlighted earlier this month by the US ambassador to South Africa when he accused Russia of providing arms to Russia via a cargo ship docked at a naval base near the city of Cape Town in December. Ambassador Ruben Brigetti said “I would bet my life” that the weapons were loaded onto the Russian-flagged Lady R, which is under US sanctions for alleged ties to a company transporting weapons to the Russian government.

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The South African government has denied any arms deals with Russia, although it has not explicitly ruled out the possibility that another entity has done so covertly. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered an investigation.

On Wednesday, South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, challenged the government to come out in the open if it had nothing to hide and release a cargo manifest for Lady R’s visit to Simon’s Town naval base.

A DA legislator also asked Defense Minister Thandi Modise to release the documents during a debate in parliament on Tuesday. Modis refused to do so, using an expletive to reiterate the government’s denial that any weapons had been loaded on the ship.

Modis has said that the Russian ship was visiting South Africa to deliver a consignment of ammunition, which was ordered in 2018 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modis’ refusal to make the cargo manifest public was supported by fellow ANC MPs, who said the documents were “classified”. Modise said he would be assigned to investigate the incident.


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