Plea not to keep Lady R report secret


With time seemingly up for retired judge Phineas Mojapelo’s inquiry into what and what didn’t the Lady R do in the Simon’s Town naval harbour, a parliamentarian maintains its report must not be “kept under wraps”.

Calendar-wise the six-week timeframe given Mojapelo, Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC and Enver Surty, expired on Monday, 10 July. There is no word, as of today (Friday, 21 July) from The Presidency on a possible request for an extension and/or when the report will be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa. His office, when announcing the inquiry, pointed out it would take place behind closed doors, people called to be questioned would not be identified and the report would not be made public.

“Finalisation of the inquiry into the docking of Russian vessel Lady R in Simon’s town is a matter of significant public interest and cannot be kept secret,” Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said, adding “the lack of transparency unveils government’s failure to prioritise South Africa’s welfare”.

Because the inquiry’s terms of reference weren’t gazetted, his party won’t participate in “a sham investigation”.

“Transparency is crucial in addressing wrongdoing and the lack thereof in this process goes against the principles of accountability and fairness. The DA cannot endorse or be part of an investigation that lacks transparency and seems to seek to conceal important information,” Marais said.

This does not mean the party is washing its hands of the Lady R incident.

“A PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) request was submitted to the Department of Defence (DoD) on 11 May, more than 60 days ago to gain access to among others, the cargo manifest of the Lady R. On the 18 July, I wrote to the DoD to inquire on the status of the PAIA application given their non-compliance. In reply to the status request the DOD apologised for the delayed response and inform me the request has been referred to the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for his recommendation to release or refuse the requested records.

“The SANDF handling of the matter seems to be nothing more than a time-wasting tactic. Reliable information is that munitions and/or armament were irregularly and most probably illegally imported and exported with the authorisation and/or consent and/or knowledge of government and the ANC,” his Lady R inquiry statement reads.