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Independent panel completes investigation into Lady R’s Simon’s Town sojourn

Independent panel completes investigation into Lady R’s Simon’s Town sojourn
Russian cargo ship Lady R leaves Simonstown harbour . Photo:Supplied

An independent panel has concluded its investigation into the mysterious Lady R. Now, it has two weeks to complete its confidential report before handing it over to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The panel tasked with investigating the alleged loading of arms for Russia on to a Russian cargo vessel, the Lady R, has met its 18 July deadline to finalise its investigation, the Presidency confirmed on Tuesday.

The panel now has two weeks to work on its confidential report before submitting it to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told Daily Maverick.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Lady R in South Africa

The Presidency had earlier announced it would set up an independent inquiry, to be chaired by a retired judge, to investigate the allegations relating to the Lady R, which docked at Simon’s Town Naval Base in December 2022.

This was after the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, told journalists in May that Washington was “confident” that weapons were loaded on to the Lady R in a clandestine operation last December. 

Brigety’s accusations were catalytic and prompted International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor to démarche him.

According to a statement released by the Presidency, Ramaphosa had decided to set up an inquiry to look into the Lady R matter because of the seriousness of the allegations, the immense public interest and the impact of this saga on South Africa’s international relations.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Biden administration shares concerns of US Congress over SA’s perceived support for Russia

The panel was appointed by the President on 28 May, and the statement said it would finalise its investigation “within six weeks of its appointment”. This means, in calendar terms, it should have been done by Sunday, 9 July, provided there was no request for an extension.

But the panel only officially began its work on 6 June, Magwenya confirmed to Daily Maverick on Tuesday. This made the six-week deadline for concluding its investigation 18 July – a deadline that the panel has now met.

“They have two weeks to work on their report. Today [Tuesday] was the last day for them to receive evidence,” Magwenya told Daily Maverick.

The panel’s terms of reference have not been gazetted, and the work of the panel will not be made public, nor will its report be released publicly, TimesLIVE reported.

There has been mounting criticism from civil society groups and political parties about the government’s decision to keep the Lady R probe report confidential.

The DA earlier announced that it had submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to obtain a copy of the panel’s terms of reference. The party’s shadow minister of defence, Kobus Marais, also submitted a PAIA application on 11 May, to seek details regarding the cargo that was loaded on to and off the Lady R.

The civil society organisations Open Secrets and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse have called on the government to make public the details surrounding the Lady R.

The three-person panel is chaired by the retired Deputy Judge President of the High Court in Johannesburg, Phineas Mojapelo. The other members are advocate Leah Gcabashe and former deputy minister of basic education Enver Surty.

The panel, according to the statement announcing its appointment in May, is tasked with establishing “persons who were aware of the cargo ship’s arrival, and, if any, the contents to be off-loaded or loaded”, along with the departure and destination of the cargo.

It will also “evaluate whether constitutional, legal or other obligations were complied with in relation to the cargo ship’s arrival, its stay, the loading or off-loading of its contents, and its departure”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Eon van Wyk says:

    “We investigated ourselves and found no evidence of wrongdoing”..

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Ooh I wait with bated breath to find out what this committee knows that our government apparently doesn’t… not.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    You there! Bring me that large brush and that other comrade to hold the end of this massive carpet.

  • Lesley Young says:

    Why appoint a committee to investigate the matter when the result will be confidential? All CR had to do was pick up the phone and ask the Navy officers what was going on (or off as the case may be).

  • Andrew Wallace says:

    What is the point of an “independent” inquiry due to the seriousness of the allegations, public interest and threat to international relations, if the findings will never be made public?
    It is a whitewash and waste of taxpayers money.
    Only private sector sleuthing will expose the truth.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    This investigation will emulate the Phala Phala one! Nothing to see here folks, move on! Amazing how the ANC can whitewash things when they want to.!

  • David Pennington says:

    Hmm, the fox is in charge of the Hen House murder investigation I deduct

  • jhskzn says:

    Clearly Mr Louis has not read the clarification by the IEC. COPE has not been deregistered as a party so the “reallocation” of their seats is a fantasy of his own making:

    “CAPE TOWN – The Independent Electoral Commission has clarified that political party Congress of the People (Cope) has not been deregistered.

    The latest developments follow the expulsion of deputy president Willie Madisha and its elections secretary Mzwandile Hleko.

    The pair, through their lawyers, have written to the IEC informing it of Cope’s deregistration as a company with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), but not as a party”

  • Gary Palmer says:

    The ANC, on the back-foot of morality, has scuppered any secrecy rights. It is also a farce that South Africa will start a war with Russia, who can barely claim any war victories with its own neighbour, should it arrest Putin. The voting public want to know the ANC/Russia shenanigans aboard Lady R.

    There is a false air of ‘power’ that the government is parading on but they don’t get that they have lost all respect and the power that goes with it, from the people they ‘serve’.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if their tactics, moving towards the 2024 elections, include martial law..

  • raymond.abrahamse says:

    Eon van Wyk – We investigated ourselves and found no evidence of wrongdoing 😂🤣 Ja right, don’t hold your breath for anything other than this.

  • Pagani Paganini says:

    The nutties are already jumping around because of the inevitable. Classification of matters related to safety and security is common around the world and happens all the time.

  • Johan Herholdt says:

    We have looked up the skirt of Lady R – absolutely nothing to see here.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Why should this report be confidential. The details should be made public, especially with the vast coverage and anger over the underhand dealing of the unloading and loading of “goods” that took place. If as the ANC says there was nothing untowards then they should not be afraid to release the investigation report in its entiretry

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    What is the point of a report which will tell the President what he knows, should know or could easily find out. Furthermore if it is designed to be a cover up or to convince the US that there were no arms on the boat, how can that be achieved without disclosing its contents. “Oh, I have my confidential report and it confirms what I told you. Is that all right then?”.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Phew, so it was just biltong for Putin.

  • Jo Van says:

    The report must be confidential because they know exactly what happened regarding the Lady R and they know they can’t reveal that to the public and the world. The Lady R sailed into our naval base with the approval of Cyril. If that is not the case, then he has no influence over the actions of the Navy. Full Stop.

  • Berthold Alheit says:

    ANC white washing anything is a contradiction in terms.

  • John Brodrick says:

    If Ramaphosa decided on the inquiry because of the “immense public interest”, why bother if the public are not going to see the results? It defies reason. When our taxes are financing the inquiry, we have not just the right, but the duty to know the results.

  • Andrew Titterton says:

    Hopefully there can be an “unofficial leak” of a final draft of the report…

  • frances hardie says:

    We wait with baited breath the outcome of the confidential investigation…

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