Lady R judicial inquiry report ready for Ramaphosa

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South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa will, his spokesman has it, “consume” the report of the judicial commission of inquiry into Russian cargo vessel Lady R before deciding on “actions to be followed”.

This is as per a Presidency statement attributed to Vincent Magwenya.

The statement does not rule out “aspects” of the report by retired judge Phineas Mojapelo and panel members Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC and former Cabinet Minister Enver Surty being made public. Ramaphosa, Magwenya’s statement has it “will decide on the actions to be followed and on aspects of the report that will be made public”.

When Mojapelo’s inquiry was announced by the South African Presidency late in May it was clearly stated it would take place behind closed doors, people who appeared would not be identified and the report would be for Ramaphosa’s eyes only.

Mojapelo and his co-panel members “concluded its investigations on 18 July in accordance with the established deadline” with a late submission causing a delay but not of sufficient import to warrant a deadline extension request.

“The report,” the statement reads, “will be completed and ready to be handed to the President as soon as his schedule permits” by today (Friday, 4 August).

Political parties, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) in the vanguard, want the Mojapelo report made public. Reasons given include the secretive docking of the Lady R in the SA Navy (SAN) fleet headquarters harbour early in December is “a matter of significant public interest and cannot be kept secret” as well as transparency (in the Lady R inquiry) being “crucial in addressing wrongdoing”. The DA has submitted a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) request was submitted to the Department of Defence (DoD) in 11 May to gain access to among others, the Lady R’s cargo manifest.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has repeatedly denied South African arms, ammunition or other defence equipment and/or materiel was loaded on the sanctioned Russian cargo carrier. She is also firm on her stance the cargo offloaded was delivered in terms of an order which could not be delivered due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, declared as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2020.