Lady R inquiry report to be challenged in court

1996

Another challenge – this time legal – is on the way for the Ramaphosa administration in the wake of the release of a summary of retired judge Phineas Mojapelo’s investigation into the Lady R’s clandestine Simon’s Town port call last December.

Glynnis Breytenbach, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow justice minister, has reportedly approached the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria maintaining “it is incompatible with the judicial office for a judge to be appointed to an unregulated and secret investigating panel”. Johannesburg-based TimesLive reports the former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutor put it in court papers this incompatibility went further in Mojapelo’s report being “confidential only to the executive”.

The TimesLive report has it Breytenbach’s complaint is “a principled one” and she isn’t accusing Mojapelo and his two co-investigators of being “part of any form of cover-up”.

Another DA parliamentarian, shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, submitted a PAIA (Provision of Access to Information Act) request to the Department of Defence (DoD) on the Lady R. He wanted, among others, sight of the Russian registered cargo vessel’s manifest for what she brought to the home port of the SA Navy (SAN) fleet as well as what was loaded. To date, apart from acknowledgement of receipt, he has had no further response.

Marais also asked if the full Mojapelo report could be tabled at either the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) or the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) to allow proper parliamentary oversight. This request has – so far – not yielded response.

Earlier this month, Cape Town-based non-profit organisation (NPO) Open Secrets, in conjunction with the Campaign for Free Expression, lodged an information application with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office for the full Lady R judicial commission of inquiry report to be made public. The request, as with that of Marais, was made in terms of PAIA. In its statement on the request, Open Secrets said “it was prompted by the President’s announcement that the investigative panel found no evidence weapons were loaded onto the vessel for export”.

Breytenbach is reported as saying the Mojapelo panel was “manifestly different” from a commission of inquiry. When its establishment was announced by Presidency spokesman Vincent Magwenya in May it was as “a judicial commission of inquiry”. The former NPA prosecutor has it judicial proceedings “almost always occur in public” with judges again “almost always” giving reasons for their decisions.