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Lady R executive summary report: Nothing to see here, folks

Lady R executive summary report: Nothing to see here, folks
The Russian registered cargo ship, Lady R, anchored in the Simonstown Naval Base on 8 December 2022 in Simonís Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

The executive summary of the report into the controversial docking of a Russian ship in Simon’s Town last year raises more questions than it does answers.

With a four-page “executive summary” of the findings of an investigative panel, the South African government intends to put the Lady R saga to bed once and for all.

Released on Tuesday night, the summary is the crystalline distillation of the findings of an independent panel appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate the mysterious circumstances around the docking of the Russian Lady R cargo ship in Simon’s Town harbour between 6 and 9 December 2022.

And despite the highly limited information contained in the summary, an accompanying statement from the Presidency made the official stance clear: “Due to the classified nature of the evidence that informed the report, the government will not publicly engage further on the substance of the report.”

Ship came from UAE, not Russia

The summary reveals that the ship was carrying weapons ordered from “a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)”, and that neither the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) or Armscor – which placed the order – had any idea that a Russian ship would be used.

Why a UAE company would choose to transport cargo on a Russian ship burdened by US sanctions is one of the unanswered questions of the case.

The weapons order was made in 2018 and delayed by Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the report states.

It is unclear why the National Conventional Arms Control Committee report for 2018 does not list a single arms order to be imported from the UAE.

The fact that the ship wending its way towards South Africa was under sanctions was only discovered by Armscor in “mid-October 2022 when the ship was already on its way”. Furthermore, the report states, “those sanctions had not been endorsed by the United Nations and were therefore not binding on South Africa”.

Nobody seems to have informed the shipping agents at Port Elizabeth of this loophole, however, since the report immediately proceeds to note that those agents “were unwilling and refused to service the ship as a result of the US sanctions”. To save the day, the SANDF directed the ship to Simon’s Town.

The subsequent paragraph, which is crying out for a fact-check which Daily Maverick will be undertaking post-haste, reads as follows:

“As part of the standard practice in relation to this kind of equipment (specifically in relation to its intended use), the goods were offloaded at night, under cover of darkness.”

The details of the arms order are classified, but known to the investigative panel.

“In light of this classified information, the panel accepted the reasons provided for the decision to offload the equipment at night,” the report states.

Regrettably, those reasons will remain unknown.

Nothing loaded on to the ship

Although multiple Simon’s Town residents were adamant that they witnessed goods being loaded on to the ship after goods were unloaded, the panel found no evidence of this: “Available evidence only confirmed the offloading and that there was nothing loaded.”

What may have confused the locals is the sub-saga of the pallets, a riveting secondary narrative which runs as follows:

“The Panel found that the equipment had not been properly containerised – it was packed in pallets. As a result, containers were brought to the port, empty, by trucks, and the pallets were loaded into the containers on the dock, after which the containers were then loaded on the trucks. On the early morning of 8 December 2022, there were pallets that remained on the quay, with insufficient time to containerise them before dawn broke. These pallets were returned to the ship, awaiting nightfall on 8 December 2022 to be offloaded again and loaded into containers. This was done because leaving the pallets on the quay/dockside during daylight was a security risk; furthermore, the nature of the equipment would be visible to anyone with sight of the dock.”

Ship went dark because it was being tracked

Finally, the mystery of why the Lady R switched off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder is answered twofold, as being “as a result of the urgent circumstances in which the docking at Simon’s Town was procured, and the tracking of the vessel by foreign intelligence agencies”.

Why a ship exporting a legitimate arms order would need to hide from foreign intelligence agencies will remain an additional lingering enigma.

In this concluding portion of the report summary, however, the panel does finally find fault with someone or something: Lady R and “those who assisted it”.

The ship and its human helpers, the panel concluded, “contravened a number of provisions that relate to commercial vessels docking at South African ports, including SARS designation of a port of entry”. Yet although laws were broken, the remedial action recommended by the panel stops at “recommendations” it has made “in relation to the future management of foreign vessels’ docking at South African ports”.  

Panel interviewed 47 people under oath

The panel was chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Phineas Mojapelo, with the two additional members being Advocate Leah Gcabashe and former deputy minister of Basic Education Enver Surty.

Exactly what the terms of reference were for the investigation is still unknown.

The report summary states that the panel interviewed 47 people under oath and received 23 written submissions.

It adds: “A number of other entities and persons that had publicly claimed to have information on this matter, after being invited to make submissions to the panel, either failed to do so or provided no independent knowledge of the relevant facts.”

Some might wonder if this is a veiled reference to US Ambassador Reuben Brigety, who famously claimed that he would “bet his life” that South Africa loaded arms on to ship bound for Russia. US mission spokesperson David Feldmann confirmed to EWN on Monday, however, that the US government had shared relevant information with the investigating panel. Brigety, as far as is known, remains alive. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    And so the lump under the Lady R carpet gets bigger and bigger. Obfuscation at its very best.

  • Marc G says:

    Just wondering if those kind hackers of the SA department of defense, would like to show the full report?
    The hackers also said that their hacking was not recognized by the United Nations, so there must be the same loophole to publish, no?

    This amateur cover-up makes Rudy Giuliani at the Four Seasons landscaping press conference, look like a professional! [Landscaper] !!

    But, of note : The shipping agent may have been subsidiary of an American one, so they would genuinely reject it. (thanks KYC rule’s?) or SANDF knew that their cranes were long since broken and had to use a private company as their 1st option to offload and onload. But plan 1 failed when KYC finally did something useful !

    Act #2 : see the “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” events page.

    🤣🤣🤣 Actually 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮

  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    A cover-up so amateur, puerile and pathetic, it defies belief!

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    So sad to embroil a judge in such cover up.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    Now it all makes sense. Thank you mr President, the honorable panel of retired dumbfucks & cadres and last but not least, the oath-takers, all of which I’m sure are happily employed by the SANDF, Armscor & Denel and savouring the increased annual bonus coming their way.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    They are not even professional in their attempt to deceive. Even a grade 4 pupil can see they are lying.

  • George 007 says:

    Interestingly, the report does not mention the US other than to say that the Lady R was under sanctions by the US. (Which the SA government claims it didn’t know about.) The US Ambassador’s name or the US State Department was not mentioned at all. Considering they started this whole investigation the omission is glaring.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Whoever thought up this load of utter hogwash and thinks anybody will believe it, should really think again.
    At least the “fokol” story was funny. This is just lame.

  • Betsie Ackerman says:

    Would be interesting to know what this little exercise in stupidifying the general public actually cost us taxpayers?

  • Tony Romer-Lee says:

    What a farce, so obviously a massive cover-up, please don’t let up on this as it makes a mockery of any form of Govt transparency and accountability…

  • Roy Haines says:

    The proverbial rat just gets smellier and smellier! (It would be a smelly fish but that would be too close to home)

  • Trust in your Government! They always tell the truth

  • William Dryden says:

    After this rubbish report, I now believe that the moon is actually made of green cheese.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Well we know who to go to if we want someone to lie about something, our “honourable” president Ramaphosa. How can he believe people will believe him after such a cover up

  • Rae Earl says:

    When I consider the incredible mess the ANC has made of the Public Protector debacle, it seems that this ‘Independent report’ on the Lady R is simply a progression at the same level of total incompetence and aimless wandering around in circles. The upper echelons of the ANC (ie the NEC) is populated with a bunch of fools who are incapable of comprehensively following straightforward reasoning at any level above Grade 4 at school. And they are running the country? NOT.

  • We have an absolute bunch of muppets at the wheel, who can’t even cover up their own hack job without adding more sh*t to the pile.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    I think the real problem here is credibility. The contents of the report may well be true and the reasons valid, but the S.A. government is well known for disseminating lies and untruths, and orchestrating cover-ups: thus the scepticism surrounding the report.

  • William Kelly says:

    Trouble is this is the government protesting their innocence. They have zero credibility in this regard. This report does nothing to establish any credibility. It’s dirty, dirty, dirty. Eventually the truth will out and we will all be ‘shocked’ at the largesse of it all.

  • David Crossley says:

    The key issue in this whole saga is why did the Lady R switch off its transponder prior to docking and subsequent to leaving Simons Town? If I am doing something naughty and I don’t want people to find out, I will also do what I can to cover my tracks.
    The ANC clearly thinks that the South African population are generally idiots if they think that this report is to be believed.

  • Peter Streng says:

    cANCer hiding behind supposed confidentiality. The Panel are as complicit as the SANDF, because if they were true Patriots, they should have refused to be part of a fake Commission and a cover up.

  • Paul T says:

    Keep going, DM! This stinks of lies and cover-up, as is to be expected of our current shameful and downright embarrassing government.

  • Deirdre Lubbe says:

    One wonders why a panel had to be appointed to come up with an explanation that could have been given when the story broke … not credible.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Seriti commission (whoops whitewash) mark 2

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:


  • Michael Thomlinson says:

    Well, I think a school kid could have come up with a better story than our useless ANC politicians have dished out.
    Facts: It did not need a commission (at big public expense) to clarify this – a simple call by the Pres to the minister of defence should have been enough. This was simply a delaying tactic while the bafoons in the presidents office thought up a stupid cover story.
    Unloading under cover of darkness (and during load shedding) then you have someting to hide.
    There is an arms manufacturer in Somerset West and a chemical missile propellent manufacturer in Wellington. Both convenient for Simonstown harbour if you are transporting by road.
    The pallet story – total BS: no freight mover would think about removing the cargo from their pallets – that would take lots of labour and time! Pallets with cargo would have been forklifted directly into the containers, if that was the case. Nobody would have worried about loading empty pallets back on board the ship. These are, mostly, considered disposable by industry.
    If the USA ambassador thought there were arms loaded then he would not have sucked that story out of his thumb. That intel would have likely been provided via the USA’s CIA.
    The Lady R was clearly trying torun “under the radar”.
    So , to my mind a total BS story. There is never smoke without fire!

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    There’s BS and BS and this is REAL BS, Ramaphoza!

  • Manie Krause says:

    “The shipping agents at Ngqura/Port Elizabeth, where the ship was at first intended to dock” One must assume that the independent panel established that the mentioned shipping agents and the habour staff have the required security clearance to offload equipment of such secret nature that the Panel agree with ” In light of this classified information, the Panel accepted the reasons provided for the decision to offload the equipment at night.” BS!

  • brandpixels1 says:

    The US, through their ambassador had the final nail on this matter. He was willing to bet his life on Lady R weapons blah blah blah. But as usual, their “intelligence” is yet to produce any results ( such as the Sandton terrorism, to name but one). While the ANC led government is a mess, I find the use of the State’s funds for this meaningless panel as a result of Brigety’s ignorence diplorable. There was never any issue other than the US trying to force South Africa to “condemn” Russia.

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