LadyRussiagate US intelligence to provide more information on Russia weapon shipment – Mufamadi-AFRICAN CRISIS-JAN LAMPRECHT

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    Nat Quinn
    President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national security advisor Sydney Mufamadi says the US had yet to provide concrete evidence on the alleged weapons shipment to Russia.
    Mufamadi gave feedback on a US envoy visit he led to the US in April to soften strained relations between South Africa and its Western counterpart.
    Mufamadi justified a probe by an independent inquiry to probe US intelligence allegations saying this would provide Rampahosa with an informed perspective.
    National security advisor Sydney Mufamadi says US intelligence agencies plan to supply South Africa with evidence to substantiate allegations that the country may have sold weapons to Russia.
    While the US did not provide “concrete evidence” to substantiate allegations that weapons were loaded on Russia’s Lady R vessel in December, this information would be provided to an independent inquiry headed by a retired judge.
    Mufamadi and Department of International Relations director-general Zane Dangor held a media briefing on Saturday to reveal what transpired on a diplomatic visit to the US in April.
    The envoys met with US lawmakers and intelligence agencies during the visit.
    Mufamadi led the advisory delegation and said its mission was motivated by concerns about the strained relationship between the US and South Africa.
    This diplomatic briefing was spurred mainly by US Ambassador Reuben Brigety, forcing the government to reveal details it knew about US intelligence suspicions.
    Brigety, who has since apologised according to Dirco, was concerned that the government remained mum regarding a US intelligence warning that weapons were likely shipped out of the country through the Russian-linked Lady R cargo vessel.
    This ship was docked in Simon’s Town, Western Cape, for three days in December, and its presence had raised some suspicion.
    Brigety heightened diplomatic concerns, but his revelations have now allowed the country to hear what the US envoy’s visit to the US entailed.
    Mufamadi confirmed that the government knew about the US intelligence information ahead of the US envoy’s visit.
    He did not divulge more on what type of evidence was provided.
    However, Dangor substantiated that “no concrete evidence” was provided.
    “What we got about Lady R is that ammunition may have been offloaded or loaded, but no concrete evidence was presented to us. It is important that we note that,” Dangor said.
    More information and US intelligence assurances have been made to supply the information to the special inquiry appointed by Ramaphosa to be headed by a retired judge.
    READ | US ambassador says South Africa gave weapons, ammunition to Russia for Ukraine war
    Mufamadi also defended the appointment of an inquiry, saying the decision had precedence and Ramaphosa had to be advised based on substantial knowledge of what happened.
    He said it was not only because of US concerns that this matter deserved a probe but because it was in South Africa’s interest to understand what happened.
    “We knew that a ship docked at the base in Simons Town, and we became aware of allegations of what type of business that ship was conducting.
    “When we became aware of this, the president said he needed to understand this and get to the bottom of this.”
    Mufamadi said:
    Our US counterparts expressed their concerns about this matter to our government, but we were acting on this matter not because we understand the consternation of our counterparts but to understand whether what happened was ethically correct. We told them what we are doing about it.
    The special advisor continued with the political rhetoric of labelling Brigety’s media briefing as a “megaphone diplomacy” and said the issue needed proper channels to avoid misunderstandings.
    Mufamadi said the US had confirmed that they “will assist us in making such information available as they have, which might assist our process in getting to the bottom of this issue”.
    He added that the US envoy visit was wide-ranging and discussed the contentious issue of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is up for review in 2025.
    He said the view was to extend this agreement, and opinions on its renewal were mixed.
    He said some US lawmakers were keen on renewing it but were also interested in changing the trade deal.
    Mufamadi said the issue of South Africa’s cosy relationship with Russia was a concern for US lawmakers.
    He said several lawmakers of the House and Senate of the US Congress had questioned whether the country was truly non-aligned as it claimed.
    South Africa had taken several key geo-political decisions at the United Nations, which had upset both Russia and the US, Mufamadi said.
    He pointed to the two countries’ unhappiness as proof that South Africa was not taking sides in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    Mufamadi said the US envoy trip was “satisfactory”, and Ramaphosa was pleased with the trip after being briefed.
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