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SHIPPING LANES

Lady R’s cargo was an ‘old order’ for ammunition, Modise says, but remains tight-lipped on details

Lady R’s cargo was an ‘old order’ for ammunition, Modise says, but remains tight-lipped on details
Russian cargo ship Lady R leaves Simon's Town harbour. (Photo: Supplied)

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has broken her silence on the Russian cargo vessel Lady R which docked in Simon’s Town Navy Base earlier this month.

The cargo offloaded by Russian ship Lady R was an “an old, outstanding order for ammunition used by the Special Forces”.

This was according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise who was briefing the media on the progress relating to benefits for military veterans, on Thursday morning. During the briefing she was asked to respond to questions about Lady R. 

Until now the minister has kept mum on the ship’s arrival and dawn departure, and there has been no official explanation from the Department of Defence (DoD), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), nor the navy for the arrival of the ship. This is despite a number of calls from politicians and repeated media requests. 

Read in Daily Maverick:State Defence, SANDF silent in face of speculation Lady R was shipping Russian weaponry” 

Addressing the media on Thursday, Modise refused to respond to detailed questions about Lady R, saying she didn’t want to comment on the contents of the vessel because she “will be guessing” until she receives all the paperwork. 

“I am waiting for the paperwork; I’m waiting for the people who know,” she said. 

Defence Minister Thandi Modise briefs the media on progress made relating to benefits for military veterans on Thursday. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle / GCIS)

However, the minister did confirm that Lady R’s cargo was an old order which had been made before the pandemic. DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais previously told Daily Maverick that the information he had received was that the unloaded cargo was “an old, outstanding order for ammunition used by the Special Forces”. 


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Modise said: “We do know, however, that whatever contents this vessel was getting, were ordered long before Covid started, and therefore the reason you are interested and America is interested in that vessel, coming into our shores, is actually because America threatens the rest of Africa – not just South Africa – of having anything that is even smelling of Russia.

“As far as they’re concerned, we must consume all the Russian vodka quickly and if it is depleted you will be found wanting for drinking the Russian vodka,” said the minister. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Cloak and dagger – the infamous nights Simon’s Town became Vladimir Putin’s town

The minister did not go into detail about the nature of the ship’s cargo.

Modise said Lady R was a matter on which members of the department needed to “apply [their] heads” and not rush into giving responses. DM

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  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    How on earth can we believe one thing that comes out of the mouth of an ANC politician?

    • James Francis says:

      So the ANC, that bastion of liberation, sold ammunition to Russia, which is busy invading and oppressing another country. I guess it’s okay as long as it’s another people who are being killed and tortured.

  • Jeremy Doveton-Helps says:

    What an arrogant joke Sisulu has turned out to be… a vessel from a state outlawed by 80%+ of the world’s nations docks clandestinely on our shores, loads munitions under cover of darkness… yet our Minister of Defence is still ‘guessing’ weeks later? She is clueless until she ‘gets the paperwork’!

    And the classic ANC lead-footed defence/attack is that ‘America threatens Africa’ and we are going to run out of vodka… not with your gilt-laden expense account, Lindi!

    • Antony Goedhals says:

      Selling bullets to a genocidal dictatorship: a crime against humanity. The minister’s vodka verbiage only amplifies the terrible truth behind her sullen gibberish.

    • Anne Felgate says:

      Thandi Modise is the current Defense minister. Almost as bad as Lindiwe Sisulu. One incompetent minister after another. In all departments.
      But they are representative of the country. And that means she represents us.
      And I say, Not in my name !!!
      Disgusting behaviour

      • Dhasagan Pillay says:

        Again – the words in the news report say that we bought the bullets, not that we supplied them.

      • Dhasagan Pillay says:

        Did you read that we bought the bullets and didn’t supply them?
        Should the payment have been made in kind – i.e. arms in exchange for boom pellets, you’ll get a better response to your one woman protest than Carl Niehaus… until then it would seem your name seems to be in conflict with itself.

  • Tracy Smith says:

    What a pathetic response from minister Modise. Even when I expect the worst, it’s always worse that that!

  • Neil Parker says:

    Rather a strange ‘joke’ (where jokes are not in order) about American ‘threats’ and Russian vodka. Reflective perhaps of the somewhat hazy thinking of this cold war relic – I hope the President soon finds her an ambassadorial post somewhere and puts Defence under a more capable set of hands.

  • Mark Schaufelbuehl says:

    Well, did one expect anything else??? No need to ait for the paperwork, if that ever makes it to the (honourable) Minister’s office!
    Despicable behaviour.. and sad for a failing democracy, that so many citizens fought for! Viva Comrades, carry on supporting your Vodka supplier. Sies!!!
    PS. … rather supply the World with the soothing Hannepoot and do something for the vrot economy!

  • Johan Buys says:

    “ As far as they’re concerned, we must consume all the Russian vodka quickly and if it is depleted you will be found wanting for drinking the Russian vodka,” said the minister. ”

    That comment from cabinet almost Trumps that Rumsfeld thing about known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Almost

  • Joe Trainor Trainor says:

    Wonderful timing from Minister Scumbag! A couple of days ago we saw the Ukrainian president impressing the world with his speech to the US congress. He made an excellent case that the world needs to help his country against what has become a terrorist state. I.e. Russia. Two days later we find out that SA is supplying ammunition to these Russian terrorists. Which they will use to kill Ukrainian civilians. Including children. For god’s sake what does the ANC think its doing?

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    I quote – ” whatever contents this vessel was getting” indicates that it was loading. Modise mentions “old ammunition”. So it appears as tho’ the Lady R was loading ammunition for Russia! Not good. The ANC is playing with fire. They are complicit in the invasion of Ukraine!

  • Paul Fanner says:

    Figures. There was a report in The Economist that Russia is running out of ammunition.

  • James Cunningham says:

    We don’t know what was loaded onto the lady R but the obfuscations from the minister means it wasn’t’ harmless tat.
    Ammo could have come in for our “special forces ” but the pandemic excuse is a bit of a stretch. What is clear is that pressure is being exerted by the US ….. especially as South Africa used to export Vodka to Russia. Maybe that’s it. the return cargo was only Vodka. Problem solved.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    Yes, indeed an “old order” for ammunition, which has taken from the 6th December to explain. So, this “old order” presumably conforming to all S.A’s regulations regarding weapons sales had to be loaded under cover of darkness and armed guards. And this minister expects us to believe her. Does the ANC hold the people in such contempt?
    Perhaps this ‘old order’ comprised of those 1.5 million rounds of ammunition looted from a container depot in Mobeni during the unrest of July 2021?

  • Michael Clark says:

    Its time the USA called it a day with this band of gangsters called the ANC. If the min of defence still does not know if we were loading/offloading drugs, heroin, arms or millions of dollars from the Lady R, a ship sactioned by the UN shows just how dysfunctional our SANDF is! The USA donated R250m in vacines and supports our entire Aids program to the tune millions and we accuse them of “threatening Africa” The ANC acts like the old apardheid gangsters called the NP!

  • Nos Feratu says:

    Yes Ma’am we believe you and all the other drivel from your masters. Aside from that this was a ‘pre-pandemic’ order. You mean it has taken our efficient arms industry more than 3 years to produce? Has Denel been paid? Were harbour fees charged/paid? The stench remains long after the ship has sailed

  • Riette Fern says:

    Please help me here, was this “old outstanding order for ammunition” offloaded or loaded onto the Lady R? One would have thought that Putin would hardly be honouring “old” agreements to supply arms/ammunition to “Africa” at a time when Russia itself is running low on supplies for their war in and against Ukraine! This does not compute, something smells rotten…

    • Dhasagan Pillay says:

      That’s what we should all be excited to find out. I for one eagerly await the minister’s paperwork waving response follow-up. Then we can castigate correctly. Cos right now the timing and the secrecy smells funny. Of course, if we bought it and had to wait this long for delivery, the Ruskies deserve a one star rating.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    An old order for ammunition pre covid just being collected now is in the same realm of belief as the Sudanese businessman coming to collect his buffaloes. Pull the other leg.

  • street36 says:

    Minister states that cargo was an old order of ammo. She does does disclose what, if anything, was loaded.
    If this is correct then why would Russia, who by all accounts is running out of ammo, even contemplate filling the order – old as it may be.
    Smelly submission from the Minister.

  • Des Clark says:

    Is there an honest honorable member of the ANC alive in South Africa today?

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    Not “rush into giving responses” You mean consider your lies carefully before you tell them. The ANC think that we’re brain dead.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Liar liar mouth on fire. These ministers have no respect for the people of this country. Such a bullshit story. Russia is using 30 year old ammunition, and begging for stock from their allies. That ship picked up ammunition. Or perhaps enriched uranium for Iran in some underhanded deal. Whatever it was is not supposed to be public, which is why it was done at night, when satellite cameras couldn’t pick up details. We are kneedeep in Russian cloak-and-dagger clandestine deals. But why does this foolish individual even mentions the US in her so-called press statement is beyond me.

  • Rob vZ says:

    Our government’s eager military engagements with Russia are terrifying. Read the recent NY Times article on the recent Russian “re-colonisation” of CAR. The ANC really is a terrible judge of character. Get over your Cold War hang ups and open your eyes. Russia is controlled by a violent and brutal regime that sees Africa as nothing more than place to be exploited under the barrel of a gun.

  • Ray Greyvenstein says:

    Another case of bullshit NOT baffling brains.

  • Hulme Scholes says:

    When will we be free from these morons? How can anybody in their right mind put a clown like that in charge of the defence of this country? God help us.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I have difficulty in believing that Russia is the place to get our ammunition from. What about Denel? Why not giving them some work so that they can at last start paying their workers? Something drastically is wrong with the priorities of the Defense ministry.

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