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Ramaphosa appoints Judge Mojapelo to chair inquiry into Russian ship Lady R

Ramaphosa appoints Judge Mojapelo to chair inquiry into Russian ship Lady R
From left: Advocate Leah Gcabashe. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier) | Justice Phineas Mathale Mojapelo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Clarence Muller / Rapport) | Former minister Enver Surty. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Craig Nieuwenhuizen)

The President has given an independent panel six weeks to complete an investigation into arms allegations about the Russian cargo vessel, the Lady R. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday 28 May announced the three-member panel tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the docking of the Lady R in Simon’s Town, in December 2022.

The President has decided on a panel chaired by former Supreme Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo, and featuring Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC, and former deputy minister of basic education Enver Surty. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Lady R in South Africa 

The panel will finalise its investigation within six weeks of its appointment and will be expected to submit its reports to the President within two weeks of concluding its work, according to a statement by the Presidency. 

Russian cargo ship Lady R leaves Simonstown harbour . Photo:Supplied

However, it may “request an extension of this time frame should it be necessary”.


The Presidency had announced it would set up an independent inquiry to investigate the matter, following the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety’s catalytic accusations earlier this month. 

On 11 May, Brigety had told journalists in Pretoria that Washington was confident that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Russian cargo vessel Lady R, which docked in Simon’s Town, Cape Town in December 2022. 

Brigety said he hoped Pretoria would respond “wholesomely” to the US concerns, so the two countries could focus on strengthening relations, but his accusations have caused a rupture. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Explainer: What we know about the explosive Russian ship scandal so far

Presidency spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya on Sunday said: “Through this inquiry, the government seeks to establish the circumstances that led to the docking of the ship and the alleged loading of cargo, and the departure of the Lady R cargo ship from Simon’s Town, during the period from 6 to 9 December 2022. 

“The President decided to establish the inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations,” said Magwenya.

According to the statement, the three-member panel has been tasked with establishing “persons who were aware of the cargo’s arrival, and – if any – the contents to be off-loaded or loaded”, as well as the departure and destination of the cargo. 

“Furthermore, the panel will evaluate whether constitutional, legal or other obligations were complied with in relation to the cargo ship’s arrival, its stay, the loading or offloading of its contents, and its departure.”

The panel will report directly to Ramaphosa and its report will include recommendations on any steps that may need to be taken in light of their findings “or as a result of any breaches that may have occurred”.

Daily Maverick reached out to David S Feldmann, spokesperson for the US embassy in Pretoria, for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Daily Maverick also contacted Ukrainian Ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Let us hope this enquiry can complete a credible enquiry, and that findings would be made available before the next Bricks conference

  • Pet Bug says:

    So, okay, but any more info who the esteemed members are….?

    A former Supreme Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo, fine?; and Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC, probably too…?
    A former deputy minister of basic education, Enver Surty; obviously a no-brainer for this task…

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Regarding your last observation, how does a ‘cadre’ qualify as an ‘independent’ person ? Truly mind boggling … or is it mind bending ? It is like those ANC ‘officials’ who have disappeared into the wood work … after insisting on supporting the ‘arms deal’ !

  • johanw773 says:

    This is a cop out. It’s just an attempt to obfuscate the issue, as the ANC (once again) has egg all over its face. It is laughable that a commission has to be appointed for something that should be dead easy to verify.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    As if the Taxpayer has FOKOL else to spend money on. What about the cold and hungry Cyril? Six weeks of investigating FOKOL? Have you got FOKOL in your head? It’s a matter of examining the paperwork; any admin secretary with half a brain could establish that the FOKOL loaded onto the ship was loads more than FOKOL!! How are you going to explain FOKOL to NATO and the US, is what matters.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    I think CR has left it a little too late to start doing the right thing!
    But something has definitely changed – Mantashes removal, this investigation out of nowhere and other small indicators are a sign of something happening – could it just have something to do with the next election? Time will tell ( sorry Tim!)

  • Zoe Lees Lees says:

    President Ramaphosa doesn’t trust his Ministers, so he appoints the commissions instead. This is a way of legally bypassing the Ministers who have daggers in his back…

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