SA Navy Chief refutes and clarifies SAS Drakensberg allegations

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Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, has refuted “spurious” allegations made against him alleging his involvement in the awarding of a contract that apparently supplied substandard engine parts to the fleet replenishment vessel SAS Drakensberg.

Lobese, in a statement issued to defenceWeb, said he has taken note of allegations made by a defenceWeb reader named “Jannie” in an article published on 26 May 2023 (This year is a “turning point” for the SA Navy – Lobese).

The reader alleged that Lobese “is part of the brass lining their pockets working in co hoots (sic) with the contractor who has absolutely no knowledge of naval vessel but is awarded all the contracts.” The reader’s comment also asked, “why is the Drakensberg not sailing for the last 4 years because the subcontractor used substandard parts and as much as you report all the irregularities nothing is done.”

The South African Navy (SAN) said it “is disturbed by the unfounded and spurious allegations against the Chief of the South African Navy,” and sees the allegations as an attempt to tarnish Lobese’s name and the image of the South African Navy “and may cause reputational harm on a personal level and negatively cast discernment on the capabilities of the current South African Navy leadership.”

The SAN therefore clarified the comment “for the benefit of the public and stakeholders,” stating that, for the record, the allegations made by “Jannie” are entirely false and devoid of truth. “Admiral Lobese was never a part of the South African Navy leadership cohort that awarded a defence contractor to supplement sub-standard engine parts to the combat support vessel, SAS Drakensberg. As a matter of fact, and public record, Vice Admiral Lobese had long been appointed in Joint Operations Divisions as part of the Joint Operations Division leadership at the time of the alleged incident.

“He only returned to the service of the South African Navy in 2021 to assume his duties as the Deputy Chief of the Navy. Furthermore, when the Chief of South African National Defence Force, General Rudzani Maphywanya instituted a Board of Inquiry (BOI) on this incident, Admiral Lobese was never summoned to appear in front of the BOI and was neither approached to file any statement nor questioned by BOI investigators concerning the matter.

“The stance of the South African Navy leadership, including those of the entire SANDF leadership, is that nobody is above the SANDF military code of conduct, rules and policies or the law. All allegations of maladministration, corruption or malfeasance reported pertaining to this alleged incident must be attended to and investigated, irrespective of the rank of the person/s implicated by the delegated responsible authorities.

“In his career in the SAN and SANDF, Admiral Lobese held various posts where he was in charge of the operational funds. Nowhere did he steal a cent of the state resources or was never investigated for being involved in corruption. Instead in his naval career he has been victimised for his stance in fighting corruption in the SAN and SANDF. His stance has led to his house being broken into three times. Furthermore, Admiral Lobese doesn’t even know or has never met Jannie. Jannie is not going to defocus the Chief of the Navy in realising his vision and mission of taking the SAN back to Sea and to Greatness.

“Another puzzling factor is that Jannie claims that he reported the matter to Admiral Lobese. This is false, he has never confronted or reported the matter to Admiral Lobese. Clearly he is suffering from delusional of grandeur,” the statement said.

The South African Navy believes that Jannie’s allegations “might be driven by hidden personal agenda against SANDF or the transformational progress of the South African Navy leadership. The South African Navy believes these allegations will be dealt with based on the information obtained by the BOI. However, the SANDF authorities must be given time and space to conduct their work without undue pressure from the public.”

The Navy added that, whilst members of the public have a right to express their views on matters of defence, remarks or comments must be based on facts, not hearsay. “Such allegations levelled against the South African Navy leadership are irresponsible and not assisting the country in resolving the challenges of our beloved Navy. Therefore, the South African Navy humbly requests that the public not use media for political point scoring or to promote racism by hiding under pseudo names (sic) or the right of freedom of expression. As public members, we also need to be responsible for checking facts before allegations are made against public officials using the media. We hope this information set the record straight,” the statement concluded.