More questions around Lady R in the wake of judicial inquiry

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South African President and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, Cyril Ramaphosa, has yet to reveal which parts of the Mojapelo inquiry into the Lady R will be made public. At the same time, sources in Cabinet’s security cluster have it no arms and ammunition were taken aboard in Simon’s Town last December.

“If this is indeed what happened, and I hope it is, it’s a relief,” is the response of South African defence observer and analyst, Darren Olivier. The African Defence Review (ADR) director, however, has five concerns, “not least of all why did it take eight months to provide this information”.

He wants to know why Lady R disabled its transponder and “pursued a misleading doubling-back into Naval Base (NB) Simon’s Town in the dead of night?”

“Further, who authorised this and what was the justification? It’s not acceptable that it wasn’t part of the inquiry’s mandate,” he maintains, asking why loading/unloading was done at night. This leads him to ask how it (cargo handling) differed from standard operating procedure (SOP) at the base, how were civilian logistics companies and crane operators appointed and what did use of them outside of regular working hours cost? Did SAN personnel work overtime?

On the use of the SAN harbour, Olivier asks why? “South Africa’s weapons and ammunition deliveries typically use the country’s commercial ports which have sufficient security for it. Even Gripen fighter aircraft were delivered through the Port of Cape Town, not Simon’s Town.”

He also asks: “Why be so secretive over the ammunition order contents for Special Forces?” saying that they operate weapons with Russian-made calibres is no secret “as many are exhibited in public”.

“Even if there are non-public weapons it’s unlikely more detail on the order would expose them,” is his summary of this aspect of the Lady R and her clandestine South African port call.

He further points out eight months to reach the conclusions, as published in at least one Sunday newspaper, is a stretch. Questions that need public answers include: What was the timeline of actions taken by Cabinet and the Department of Defence (DoD) throughout this process? The manifest showing what was loaded on would’ve been available immediately and could’ve been verified within days. Why the secrecy and delay?

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the Lady R report has gone to Ramaphosa, who stated he would evaluate it and decide whether to make the report or parts of it public. Today (Thursday, 10 August) Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the report is for the President and not the Cabinet.