The commander of the South African army’s ground forces is holding talks in Moscow, the country’s military leadership announced, confirming previous Russian media reports, days after Washington accused Pretoria of supplying weapons to Russia.
A statement from the South African National Defense Force confirmed that “the commander of the South African army, General Lawrence Ambata, is in Moscow … to hold a bilateral meeting between the two military institutions.”
The South African army statement stressed that the meeting was “pre-planned” within the framework of a “measure that has been in place for some time” and indicated that it was a “friendly visit” at the invitation of the Russian army.
And Russian news agencies had reported earlier Monday, quoting the Ministry of Defense in Russia, that Ambata was heading a delegation that discussed “issues related to military cooperation and interaction.”
On Thursday, the US ambassador to Pretoria, Robin Brigetti, accused South Africa of secretly supplying weapons to Russia, noting that his country believes that a Russian cargo ship loaded weapons and ammunition when it docked at a naval base in the Cape last December.
Russia cargo ship in the port of Cape Town, South Africa, last December
The statements of the US ambassador called for a condemning response from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who did not deny the information but announced that an investigation would be opened in the case, in a move Washington was quick to welcome.
South Africa did not issue any condemnation of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, which put Moscow in great isolation on the international scene.
South Africa says it seeks to remain neutral and considers dialogue the way to end the conflict. However, opponents pointed to a number of facts that show openness towards the Kremlin.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Africa agreed to strengthen relations between their countries, the Kremlin announced.
A Kremlin statement said that Putin and Ramaphosa “expressed their intention to consolidate relations for the common interest in several areas.”
According to Moscow, the phone conversation took place “at the initiative of the South African side.”
On Monday, Ramaphosa said the country would not be drawn into a “struggle between international powers” over Ukraine, despite facing “great pressure” to take sides.
The weekly presidential bulletin quoted Ramaphosa as saying, “We do not accept that our non-aligned position gives preference to Russia at the expense of other countries. Nor do we accept that it jeopardizes our relations with other countries.” He said Pretoria supports resolving the conflict peacefully.
And news agencies reported that Mampata visited, on Monday, “educational institutions of the ground forces and companies of the military-industrial complex” in Russia.
And according to the Russian Interfax agency, “agreements were reached to enhance cooperation between the ground forces in various fields.”
For its part, the South African National Defense Force confirmed that the tour in Russia will include visits to Russian military colleges.