Nuts and bolts info on Lady R inquiry missing


Last weekend’s announcement of a judicial inquiry by the South African Presidency into the Lady R and what she might or not have unloaded and loaded in Simon’s Town was “just that, an announcement” with no nuts and bolts information.

That’s the current view of Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais. He told defenceWeb it would be “helpful” if, among others, the government would make known the venue where retired judge Phineas Mojapelo will oversee the inquiry, when it will start sitting and will it be open to the public.

There was, at the time of publication, no update from Cyril Ramaphosa’ Presidency on the Lady R judicial inquiry with Marais faring slightly better in his separate quest for answers on the Russian cargo vessel’s Simon’s Town stop. He made a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) request to Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) wanting details on the Lady R and the apparent use of a United States (US) sanctioned Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft using Air Force Base Waterkloof to deliver “mail” for the Russian Federation Embassy in Pretoria.

“The DoD confirmed receipt of my request and the application has been registered,” he said.

On the nuts and bolts of Mojapelo’s inquiry, Marais said “apart from if classified material is to be presented, there is no reason to make it closed”. He maintains it will be in South Africa’s best interests” for the Lady R inquiry to be as open and transparent as possible and additionally, be concluded quickly and properly.

He said further the judicial inquiry decision, seemingly by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief (Ramaphosa), had to be seen as an effort to “investigate circumstances surrounding the docking of the Lady R”. At the same time he is concerned about the make-up of the three member inquiry panel, specifically the inclusion of a former basic education deputy minister.

“Enver Surty’s affiliation with the ANC raises questions about the impartiality and independence of the investigation. It is imperative investigations such as this be conducted by experts free from any political bias or influence. The inclusion of a prominent ANC cadre like Surty undermines the integrity of the process and creates a perception that the investigation is a mere attempt to protect the ANC’s interests.

“We as the DA firmly believe the investigation into the Lady R docking requires individuals with expertise and experience in maritime affairs, legal matters and ethics. The panel should consist of impartial and independent experts who can objectively examine events and provide credible findings. The appointment of Surty, who has a clear political affiliation, fails to meet this requirement. There must be a military/defence expert and someone with knowledge of the import and export of munitions, armament, weapons, etc. on the panel.

“To ensure transparency and accountability, the DA calls on President Ramaphosa to clarify whether Surty’s appointment was based on instructions from the ANC deployment committee,” Marais said.