Another call for release of full Lady R report

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Non-profit organisation (NPO) Open Secrets has added its voice to the chorus of those calling for the full Lady R judicial commission of inquiry report to be made public.

The Cape Town-based NPO working in tandem with the Campaign for Free Expression lodged an information application with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office within days of him releasing an executive summary earlier this month. The organisations want the South African supremo to make public Judge Phineas Mojapelo’s report and additional relevant information on the docking of the Lady R In Simon’s Town in December last year.

The request was made under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), an Open Secrets statement has it, adding “it was prompted by the President’s announcement that the investigative panel found no evidence weapons were loaded onto the vessel for export”.

“The President stated the ‘entire report’ would not be released on the grounds that ‘classified information’ required protection. A summary was released but it raised as many questions as it answered.

“Information of this nature should not, as a matter of course, be kept from the public. The overriding public interest in this investigation is clear: all people living in South Africa are entitled to hold the government to account. We cannot exercise this right without there being transparency on the part of the state.

“When government operations and investigations remain secret the greater the opportunity for corruption and the abuse of power.  To the extent classified information is contained in the report, the Presidency could achieve its protection without imposing a blanket measure preventing the public from holding its government accountable.”

Ahead of the executive summary release, Open Secrets in May and June sent separate information requests about the Lady R to United States “institutions tasked with foreign affairs and intelligence”. These included the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety claimed he had evidence of South African weapons being loaded on to the Lady R, but has not made anything public.

Open Secrets said NSA and DIA denied the information requests due to the information pertaining to the “interest of national defence or foreign relations”. The State Department “communicated it is processing our request” Open Secrets said, adding it will continue “pursuing this matter”.

Another seeking the full report is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. He maintains the full Mojapelo report should be an agenda item for either one of Parliament’s defence oversight committees – the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) or the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV). He, like Open Secrets and the Campaign for Free Expression, submitted a PAIA request regarding Lady R to Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD). Apart from receipt acknowledgement he has, to date, heard nothing.