Lady R investigation progressing as questions remain unanswered

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The three-person Lady R judicial investigation is, according to the South African Presidency, “progressing with its work” at the same time as a non-profit social justice organisation challenged its behind closed doors modus operandi.

Presidency spokesman Vincent Magwenya told yesterday’s (Monday, 12 June’s) scheduled weekly media briefing the panel headed by retired judge Phineas Mojapelo will “interact with all concerned role players”. Majepelo and his co-panel members, Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC and former basic education deputy minister Enver Surty, will further “seek to hear from interested parties with information to assist the investigation”.

Initially at least, it appears the Mojapelo investigation will confine itself to electronic communication via [email protected]. Once all submissions are processed the panel “will be in contact for further engagements” according to The Presidency, which gives no closing date.

When the judicial investigation’s behind closed doors status was made public it raised the ire of Hennie van Vuuren, long-time campaigner for social justice, singling out “the powerful who monopolise resources and influence”. His Open Secrets non-profit organisation (NPO) wrote to Presidency Director-General Phindile Baleni and its Acting Head: Legal and Executive Services, Geoffrey Mphaphuli seeking clarity and explanation on why the investigation would be secret with its report not going to be made public.

Van Vuuren’s letter notes, among others, the investigation’s stated objective of ensuring South Africa’s “constitutional, legal, or other obligations were complied with during the docking of Lady R in Simon’s Town”. He further points out the panel will have “unknown authority and powers, particularly regarding private actors” and that “proceedings and evidence led before the independent panel will be shielded from public scrutiny”.

Open Secrets is “concerned the current approach conceals important matters which are in the public interest behind a veil of secrecy without sufficient justification and purportedly because of the broadly defined concept of ‘national security’”.

Another watching developments around the Mojapelo investigation with more than a passing interest is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.

“I was the first public representative to raise the Lady R’s arrival in Simon’s Town,” he said, adding the lack of response from government prompted him to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in the search for answers – hopefully truthful ones.

“I wait with interest to see and/or hear from the investigation asking for my input,” he told defenceWeb.