Cabinet welcomes White House response to Lady R matter

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South Africa’s Cabinet has welcomed the acknowledgement of the US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, of the seriousness with which President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the Lady R matter.

This is according to the Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who was addressing media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 18 October.

This is after Sullivan’s call with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s National Security Advisor, Sydney Mufamadi, early this month.

The two officials, according to Ntshavheni, also reaffirmed the strong relations between the two countries.

According to the statement released by the White House, the two advisors reaffirmed the strong partnership between South Africa and the United States.

The parties also recommitted to advancing shared priorities, including trade and investment, infrastructure, health and climate.

This is after the United States Ambassador, Reuben Brigety, accused South Africa of having weapons, intended for Russia, loaded onto the Lady R when the container ship docked near Cape Town in December.

However, the independent panel appointed by President Ramaphosa found no evidence that weapons had been loaded.

Sullivan, according to the White House, also thanked the South Africans for hosting the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in early November.

South Africa decided not to demand an apology from the United States after the diplomatic storm that followed Brigety’s remarks about the Lady R. Mufamadi said the government decided not to push for a recall of Brigety after the panel’s findings. For its part, the US threatened to remove South Africa from AGOA.

Ramaphosa, answering a question posed by the Economic Freedom Fighters, this month acknowledged the fallout caused by the Lady R affair. “A preliminary analysis by the National Treasury considered that there was a significant depreciation in the Rand against the US dollar in May 2023, as much as 2.4%. While this was in part due to the pronouncements of the US Ambassador to South Africa regarding the Lady R vessel, other variables would need to be considered to arrive at a monetary cost, such as concerns about high inflation, debt servicing costs and the impact of loadshedding,” Ramaphosa replied.

“To assign a monetary value to a single event would therefore be speculative. There is no doubt, however, that the elevated geopolitical risk was to blame for the Rand’s further depreciation.”

Brigety claimed he would stake his life on evidence that South Africa loaded weapons for Russia aboard the Lady R, but has not released any further information to date. His claims prompted Ramaphosa to establish a panel to investigate the December 2022 docking of the Lady R in Simons Town. The panel found no weapons were loaded, and the ship was delivering equipment destined the SA National Defence Force, apparently small arms ammunition for the Special Forces.