DoD “delaying” Lady R PAIA

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The way Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) is handling a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) request concerning the arrival in South Africa of Russian hardware in the form of a cargo ship and a transport aircraft smacks of delays and “passing the buck”.

This was how Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais reacted to a second letter from the DoD on his PAIA application regarding the Lady R in Simon’s Town and an Il-76 landing at Air Force Base Waterkloof to supposedly deliver mail for the Russian Federation Embassy in Pretoria.

Marais, the first public representative to make known the Lady R’s arrival in the SA Navy (SAN) home port and fleet headquarters, sees the letter as part of a government cover-up. “Instead of providing the true facts, the DoD [in the form of its Acting Director: Promotion of Access to Information, RW Mdawe] decided to pass the buck and delay the release of crucial information,” he said in response to the letter stating “part” of his request is with Defence Legal Services. A tortured route is set out for the request to further go to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya, and then to the acting Secretary for Defence Thobekile Gamede before – if both approve – Marais will receive the information asked for.

His PAIA request was submitted on 11 May. It sought details of the Lady R’s manifest for both unloading and loading as well as export approvals and details of “goods” taken from the Il-76 at the Centurion base.

“If the DoD believes it can prolong the process in the hopes the findings of President Ramaphosa’s panel inquiry will be classified, they have gravely miscalculated. DA Leader John Steenhuisen made it clear the party will seek legal advice to challenge Ramaphosa’s plan to hide the report once complete,” Marais said.