South African military delegation in Moscow to discuss defence cooperation: Russian agency report

Days after South Africa was accused of secretly sending arms and ammunition to Russia, a military delegation has gone to Moscow, according to Russian news agencies.

South Africa’s Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha is heading a delegation that will discuss “issues relating to military cooperation and interaction” with their Russian counterparts.

Last Thursday the US ambassador to Pretoria Reuben Brigety said that the United States believed weapons and ammunition had been laden onto a Russian freighter that docked at a Cape Town naval base in December.

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosam, in response, said that the matter is being “looked into” and that he will be able to speak about it “in time.”

The US, in turn, has welcomed the country’s proposal to probe the issue.

South Africa has refused to condemn the conflict in Ukraine, which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage.

The country — an African powerhouse that also wields moral clout for its victory over apartheid — says it wants to stay neutral.

But critics cite a number of recent incidents as evidence of a tilt toward the Kremlin.

On Friday, following the scandal, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with Ramaphosa.

Both leaders agreed to “intensify mutually beneficial ties” according to the Kremlin.

And on Monday, Mbatha “visited educational institution of the ground forces and enterprises of the military-industrial complex” of Russia, agencies said.

“Agreements were reached to further increase cooperation between ground forces in various fields,” Russian agency Interfax said.

With inputs from agencies

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