Standoff at Warsaw airport after officials try to confiscate weapons from Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit

Standoff at Warsaw airport after officials try to confiscate weapons from Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

More than 10 hours after arriving in Warsaw, about 120 special forces, high-ranking security personnel as well as journalists were unable to disembark and head to Rzeszów.

South Africa’s diplomatic woes continue to grow as Polish officials refuse entry of Presidential Protection Unit weapons into their country. Polish officials instead wanted to confiscate their equipment despite the president’s security claiming to have all the required documents. 

The head of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit, General Wally Rhoode, has accused Polish officials of being “racist”, and blatantly “sabotaging” South Africa by not allowing them to offload their equipment and weapons. 

The containers storing weapons and security equipment had to be offloaded for safety reasons. 

Speaking to the media late on Thursday at the Warsaw airport, Rhoode explained why the president’s security had been left stranded for at least 10 hours in a chartered plane at the Warsaw airport’s cargo section. He further went on to explain that they had been organising permits for the past two weeks, adding that this situation was unprecedented. 

He mentioned that one of his female colleagues had been strip-searched, which Rhoode believes is unusual when someone has a diplomatic passport. 

“They say we do not have permits – we have permits, the only difference is that they say we cannot have copies of permits. The embassy here printed permits because they said it’s not necessary to have permits here. Now, all of a sudden, we need to have originals. They are delaying us and they are putting the life of our president in jeopardy because we could have been in Kyiv this afternoon already,” he said. 

“I do not know why they want to confiscate our weapons,” he added. 

More than 10 hours after arriving in Warsaw, around 120 special forces, high-ranking security personnel as well as journalists were unable to disembark and head to Rzeszów. The security personnel were expected to provide more support to the security team which travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, with the president. 

The final plan etched by the presidency was that media and security would leave from the Air Force Base Waterkloof to Poland on Wednesday and then take another chartered plane to Rzeszów. 

Cracks started to show when the aircraft was circling around at some point of the journey while the pilot awaited permission to fly over Italy. 

Once the South African Airways plane landed in the cargo section of Warsaw airport, it was halted and an announcement was made by the pilot that, instead of making the dropoff, they would continue to Rzeszów, Poland. The only snag, according to the pilot, was they were still waiting for a permit to travel to be able to start the 40-minute journey.

The pilot then announced that the crew had decided to stay with passengers to complete this mission. He, along with his co-pilot, decided to go to rest because of the time limits they are given to work, as stipulated by law.

However, Rhoode later revealed the main reason for the delays. 

This mission has been riddled with a number of mishaps for South Africa since its inception. 

The presidency initially invited a number of media houses that were told that they would be travelling with his security personnel at the beginning of June, but this date was later postponed to 11th of the same month. However, the presidency only managed to organise the required air travel on the 14th. 

Daily Maverick understands that there were issues around getting an aircraft that has the required authorisation to travel into Russia. Most companies are not insured to fly in war-stricken areas. 

Air travel in Ukraine has been suspended because of the ongoing conflict.

President Ramaphosa landed in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday afternoon and was heading to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky on the first leg of an African Peace Mission to try to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Ramaphosa visited the Polish capital, Warsaw, to pay a courtesy call on President Andrzej Duda, who leads a country that shares borders with Ukraine and Russia, and is deeply affected by the regional conflict. 

The United States and Poland are longtime allies and have had strong bilateral ties. The Polish government has been a supporter of continued American military and economic presence in Europe. 

Pretoria has recently been perceived to have a good relationship with Russia, which has compromised its position with America.

The President then left Warsaw leaving his security personnel behind. 

Ramaphosa, Zambian president Hakainde Hichilema and Senegalese President Macky Sall are directly participating in the mission. 

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, Comoran president Azali Assoumani and Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou-Nguesso have all pulled out. 

Sassou-Nguesso tried to persuade the other participants to postpone the peace mission on the grounds that the launch of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia had made a visit to Kyiv too dangerous. DM


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  • Jim F. says:

    Nothing to see here. Situation normal and all going to plan. General Wally meantime, spreading a bit of goodwill to the Polish.

  • One disaster after another.

    • Bill Gild says:

      The ANC/SACP appear to believe that they do exactly as they like anywhere in the world.
      They need to be informed that developed countries have rules and regulations, especially when it comes to transporting God-knows what kinds of armaments.

  • steve woodhall says:

    What do they expect? Russia is Poland’s enemy and should Putin succeed in overrunning Ukraine, they’re next. South Africa’s ANC government is seen as Russia’s ally by most of the world despite their mealy mouthed protests of ‘non alignment’. The friend of my enemy is my enemy. Go figure.

  • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

    What’s the point of this mission? It looks like a clusterf***, so typical of anything that our President organizes.

  • dylan smith says:

    It’s hard to travel on the green mamba but when you are Putin’s lapdog it just gets a bit more complex

  • Brian Cotter says:

    “The head of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit, General Wally Rhoode, has accused Polish officials of being “racist”.
    Who told the Polish officials to act that way. Maybe SA stance supporting Russia and not racism.

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    We know how arrogant the blue light people are and how they will flagrantly violate any law or regulation as it suits them so why are we surprised they rubbed the Polish personnel up the wrong way. South Africans, particularly South African politicians and civil servants are known the world over for screaming racism every time something does not go their way so in all likelihood they screwed up because they thought they were too special to have to follow the rules then screamed racism to justify their bad behaviour.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Go Wally, play the race card – history proves it always helps to solve problems.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    The cadres are just one continuous cock up after another.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    Now the President knows how the rest of us feel after trying to deal with the Department of Home Affairs.

    • Hilary Morris says:

      Or indeed any other government department. Had they applied to enter as a three ring circus, a permit would be granted instantly. I know it is serious, but laugh? I nearly died! Love that half the delegation saw the light and pulled out before embarrassing themselves.

    • Frans Flippo says:


  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    Looks like a badly organized waste of time. I doubt that the Poles feel much sympathy for South Africa given our governments so called non alignment and are certainly not going out of their way to help. As far as Russia goes, you really must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if you count SA as an ally. Apart from some minimal trade we’re not in a position to do anything meaningful for Russia and all our comrades have to offer is some moral support for their immoral war. Given Zelensky’s stance on negotiations and Putin’s stubborn aggression I fail to see any break in the deadlock from either side. So what the heck are these delegates doing apart from wasting time and money for no conceivable reason. By the way CR, South Africa is on its knees in case you hadn’t noticed.

  • J C says:

    Bwahahahaha – amateurs trying to play in the Major League!Just goes to show how far removed from reality this useless “government” really is .

  • William Kelly says:

    If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The ‘Mericans must be sniggering.
    But don’t worry. If we double the VVIP protection budget we can be just like the ‘Mericans. Heck, let’s treble it. The muppets after all, are irreplaceable.

  • J C says:

    Bwahahahaha – amateurs trying to play in the Major League! Just goes to show how far removed from reality this useless “government” really is. Boy are those Putin flavored chickens coming home to roost now!

  • You’d think that we Africans would try to clean up the messes in Africa first, like Sudan, DRC, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, etc. Or even in South Africa, where we have plenty to do…

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      That’s what I can’t understand! Clean up your own backyard first Mr President. I can only assume there is more in the cargo hold than we think? Be it arms, goldbars or even the odd sofa!

  • Bill Gild says:

    Absolutely hilarious!
    The blue-light brigade must have thought that they could behave as recklessly and badly as they do in SA.

  • Derek Jones says:

    His country is drowning in sewage and he wants to play peace keeping mission to two super powers.
    Even if he is trying to obfuscate the lady R situation, or secure grain his effrontery is embarassing.

  • Mark Cowell says:

    I suspect Wally put “Fokol” in the “Anything to Declare” customs form and the Poles realised they had heard that somewhere before

  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    “120 special forces”?! Were they planning an invasion? What’s that costing?!

    • Nick Miller says:

      How would SA respond if 120, say Norwegian, special forces arrived escorting their president on the way to Zimbabwe to “mediate” a dispute there? I am damn sure they wouldn’t get the warm welcome afforded to a Gupta wedding party.

  • Kevin Schaafsma says:

    So the SA Presidential Protection Unit thought that copies of permits would be ok to use to get firearms through an international airport?? Which is strange because a copy of a firearm licence in South Africa is not adequate for a firearm owner to carry. If stopped at a police roadblock with a firearm in your possession and you do not have the original licence, the firearm WILL be confiscated. Even a copy of the licence certified by SAPS is not sufficient. Even if the police at the roadblock can look up online that the firearm is licenced to you, it will still be confiscated. That’s how South African police officials treat South African citizens who are firearm owners.

  • James Francis says:

    That’s what you get for being Putin’s lapdog.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Got to understand how the Poles hate the russians. Don’t blame them given the atrocities the russians have metered out to the Polish over a few hundred years. So for the Poles, anyone who is vaguely friendly with the russians is their enemy. Especially if you pitch up with half an army and an attitude. What a laugh. They were probably hacked off because they were confined to the aircraft and by then, all the free booze would have been long gone.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Containers of arms and weaponry? 120 special forces, high-ranking security personnel? All the other African countries pull out leaving Ramaphosa and this rag-tag “SA military cavalcade” now standing naked and it is clear to the World both what a naive fool our President is and what the real purpose of this mission is. Our President has just made absolutely certain that South Africa’s continued participation in AGOA will be cancelled and tens of millions of more South Africans will thus become unemployed. Be very certain, our President has just flushed our economy down the toilet and pulled the chain. We now more than ever need to have the full details as to whom those rogue elements were who met the Lady R boat, what there agenda was and exactly what was both unloaded and uploaded on that fateful night.

    • rocheburgers says:

      Ramaphosa has been hard at work flushing our economy down the drain for quite some time, beginning with his cadre development efforts that brought about the demise of All the state owned entities of South Africa.

  • Pall Catt says:

    The race card seldom ever has any real substance, but it works regardless in countries where the aggrieved race has a numerical majority, so its a crutch which South Africans lazily rely on when there are no credible options. In this case however, its futile trying to play that card but our clumsy presidency doesn’t seem to know any better, or just cant think past that because they’ve never had to.

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    This, like anything else the ANC touch turns into a circle jerk, I can just picture the scene at Polish customs with our blue lights brigade trying to bully their way through, my guess it went South as soon as they started raising their voices.

  • Rae Earl says:

    This has to rate as the ultimate diplomatic cock-up. The ANC has managed to lower the bar of international diplomacy down to absolute zero. Don’t these clowns know that Poland is a huge supporter of Ukraine? Not forgetting that they have very close ties with the US and absolutely hate Putin and his mob. I’m so glad I’ve never been an ANC supporter. I would die of embarrassment.

  • rmrobinson says:

    A bunch of Africans, supporting Russia, fly in to Poland, a country which has faced existential threats from Russia over many ages, with a plane full of weapons. That existential threat is currently very high, considering that Russia thought fit to invade a neighbour and inflict massive damage on it. Why on earth would Poland not let the Russian -supporting marxist Africans in? Ja well, no fine.

  • Tim Jones says:

    You need 120 security personnel and “armaments” on a diplomatic mission, on a PEACE mission. The hubris shown by the SA govt is staggering. The futile expense of all this is inexcusable. The ineptitude is embarrassing. Do these minnows seriously believe their hypocritical and puny “peace efforts” will be of the least significance? Delusions of grandeur doesn’t quite capture this quixotic enterprise.

  • rocheburgers says:

    My fear is that there are containers of ammunition, destined for Russia traveling with ramaphosas security detail.

  • André Pelser says:

    Clearly the SA embassy in Poland is incompetent, much like our embassy in the UAE and Washington.
    Our ANC cadres masquerading as diplomats are simply friends and family on an extended, all expenses paid holiday, funded by the SA taxpayer.
    Hosts usually take care of security during state visits.
    The ANC government is embarrassing.

  • David Dowling says:

    What a “Wally”. Hello – this a DIPLOMATIC mission Wally – “Racist” and “Sabotaging” are not in the diplomatic dictionary.
    Shouldn’t General Wally be promoted to a member of the “General” Public?

    • rocheburgers says:

      My impression of Wally is that he would be more at home as a general of the 26’s gang, rather than a general in any formal government service.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    ““I do not know why they want to confiscate our weapons,” he added.”
    Really? Especially accompanied by 120 special forces. Enough to invade a country🤣🤣

  • Paul Savage says:

    Wally Rhoode, promoted from nowhere to the position of Major General in the SAPS as head of Ramaphosa’s PPU! How’s that for cadre deployment!! And no wonder this muppet completely stuffs up this entire mission. Is this whole debacle not exactly what one would expect from an ANC led Government? Incompetent, corrupt, arrogant, wasteful, embarrassing, useless.

  • andrew farrer says:

    but i’m sure wally was appointed on merit?

  • rmrobinson says:

    What did I miss? Not just another mess perpetrated by the ANC? Or was this racism? If so, by whom, the ANC, who thought they could do just what they wanted, regardless of the suffering of the people in Eastern Europe? WHEN, O WHEN, CAN I HOPE TO HEAR A WORD OF CONDOLENCE TOWARDS THE PEOPLE OF THE UKRAINE FROM THE AFRICANS? WHAT AM I MISSING HERE? AND EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THE POLES ARE RACIST FOR INSISTING ON COMPLIANCE WITH RULES? I JUST DO NOT GET IT. SHOW US THE F.. PERMITS AND GET DONE WITH IT. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE IT, PAY BACK OUR TAX MONIES RIGHT NOW.

  • William Dryden says:

    Rhoode is a wally in all respects saying the life of Squirrel would be in danger, however he may be right but in the wrong country, Squirrels problems are in South Africa where politicians are being taken out frequently and not in Poland. Also who does Squirrel think he is, the King of England and needs 120 protection personnel?

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