Watch: South African Government Encounters Mounting Pressure Over Russian Vessel’s Alleged Arms Delivery
The country’s government has yet to explain about 14 days following sanctioned Russian cargo vessel the Lady R, docked at the naval harbour at South Africa’s Simon’s Town for three days.
The Lady R, sanctioned by the US Treasury Department, was travelling to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania when, per local media, it turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS), a tracking system that offers GPS coordinates, other information on the ship, and identification automatically.
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Citing the South African Maritime Safety Authority, local media had reported that the ship didn’t send a distress signal, dispelling some theories that it had been in distress and required help.
The Lady R was finally towed into the naval harbour by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at Simon’s Town in darkness. The operation occurred between 8 pm and 10 pm local time, but some public members spotted it due to electricity in the area being shut down as regular “load shedding.”
Per eyewitnesses, photos, and local media reports, the floodlights at the harbour were on.
The cargo was reportedly unloaded from the vessel and carted off under armed guards in SANDF trucks.
The Lady R was anchored at Simon’s Town from 6 December to 9 December before going back the way it had come – toward Turkey and the Black Sea.
However, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to CTV News when the report was published.
Alarm bells reportedly went off for an official member of the opposition and shadow minister for defence and military veterans Kobus Marais of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance party, who was tipped off by several sources — official, civilian, and military — of the vessel’s arrival.
The US State Department has reportedly designated the Russian Ministry of Defense’s shipping firm and six others for transporting weapons and military equipment for sanctions in May 2022.
America has also requested nations deny US-sanctioned vessels of Russia entry into ports or the territorial waters and deny services of resupplying and refuelling.
They are, however, concerned that ships identified as the property of the sanctioned firms continue to transport military-related goods on behalf of Russia’s Government, per a spokesperson associated with the State Department.
Marais mentioned that he reached out to the Minister of Defence of South Africa, Thandi Modise of the ruling African National Congress Party, an appointee of re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa, and other high-ranking relevant officials who indicated they would be issuing a statement.
The statement from the Department of Defense did not materialize.
Local defence firms around Cape and Simon’s Town are subsidiaries of more significant European corporations. These firms would not want to risk breaking sanctions levied on Russia, per author and defence analyst Dean Wingrin.
All experts and defence analysts associated with CTV News noted that South African Special Forces use weapons from “eastern bloc” nations and import weapons and tactical gear, like Russian-manufactured and Chinese small arms, but China or Bulgaria sources those.
As for cargo loaded onto Lady R, there is no paper trail yet.
References: CTV News, Flipboard