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South Africa under scrutiny for Russian vessel as ruling ANC says it would ‘welcome’ Putin

Cape Town, South Africa — The South African government was coming under more pressure on Wednesday for refusing to release cargo documents relating to the visit of a Russian ship which the United States says collected an arms shipment for Moscow.

Separately, a senior member of South Africa’s ruling party added to the scrutiny of the country’s relations 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.

African National Congress Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula’s comments regarding Putin were made in an interview with the BBC and in the context of the Russian leader’s attendance at a 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 was according to the ANC, we would want President Putin to be here, even tomorrow, to come to our country,” Mbalula said in the interview, excerpts of which were posted on the social media of the ANC on Tuesday. “We will welcome him here as an integral part of BRICS.”

As a signatory to the International Criminal Court treaty, South Africa is obligated to arrest Putin if he enters the country. The South African government has indicated that it will not execute the arrest warrant if Putin goes to the summit, although it has not said so explicitly.

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

He told the BBC interviewer that there was hypocrisy on the part of the West over the arrest warrant for Putin because, he said, Britain and d he other Western countries have committed crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and no heads of state have been arrested.

Last month, Mbalula called the United States “a country that ruins the world”.

There has been an increase in anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric within the ANC and at times in parts of the South African government since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, although South Africa maintains a neutral stance on the war.

The trend is troubling for the United States 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 historic relationship with Russia linked to the former Soviet Union’s military and political support of the ANC when it was a liberation movement fighting to end the racist apartheid regime. that oppressed the country’s black majority. The West appears concerned that the ANC’s former ideological ties to Russia are now drawing South Africa into Moscow’s political orbit amid rising global tensions. There are also growing economic ties between Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people, and China.

The concerns were revealed by the US ambassador to South Africa earlier this month when he accused him of supplying arms to Russia via a cargo ship which docked at a naval base near Cape Town in December. Ambassador Reuben Brigety said ‘I’d bet my life’ that weapons were loaded on the Russian-flagged Lady R, which is under US sanctions for its alleged links to a company that transported weapons for the Russian government.

The South African government has denied carrying out an arms deal with Russia, although it has not categorically ruled out the possibility that another entity did so secretly. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered an investigation.

South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance party on Wednesday challenged the government to tell the truth if it had nothing to hide and release a cargo manifesto for Lady R’s visit to Simon’s Town Naval Base.

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

Modise said the Russian ship was on a visit to deliver an ammunition shipment to South Africa that was ordered in 2018 but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modise’s refusal to release the cargo manifesto was backed by other ANC lawmakers, who said the documents were “classified”. Modise said they would be handed over to the investigation into the incident.


More news from AP Africa: https://apnews.com/hub/africa

ABC News

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