SA’s army chief in Russia for military talks, SANDF confirms

Chief of the South African Army Lieutenant General Lawrence Khulekani Mbatha. File Photo: SANDF

Chief of the South African Army Lieutenant General Lawrence Khulekani Mbatha. File Photo: SANDF

Published May 16, 2023


The SANDF has confirmed that Chief of the SA Army, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha is in Moscow, Russia for a bilateral meeting between the two military establishments.

This comes days after Washington accused South Africa of secretly providing arms to Russia.

However, the SANDF said the bilateral meeting was planned “well in advance” and was a long-standing arrangement.

Mbatha is said to be heading a delegation to discuss ‘’issues relating to military co-operation and interaction’’.

The SANDF said the head of the SA Army had received an invitation from his Russian counterpart for a goodwill visit.

The visit is said to include a call to the higher combined Army Academy and the Artillery Military Academy.

During the visit, Mbatha is also expected to have staff talks with military officials.

“It must be noted that South Africa has Military to Military bilateral relations with various countries on the continent and beyond,” the SANDF said.

“The SANDF receives numerous military delegations into the country and sends its own delegation to other countries to discuss matters of mutual interest.”

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

While President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that the allegations would be investigated, he said on Monday that the country would not be drawn “into a contest between global powers” over Ukraine despite having faced “extraordinary pressure” to pick sides.

‘’We do not accept that our non-aligned position favours Russia above other countries. Nor do we accept that it should imperil our relations with other countries,’’ Ramaphosa said in his weekly presidential newsletter.

The government supported a peaceful resolution to the conflict, he said.

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