Did Lady R offload ammunition in Simon’s Town?

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The Russian cargo vessel Lady R is long gone – currently at anchor off Beira in Mozambique – with unanswered questions about her docking in Naval Base (NB) Simon’s Town and the apparent loading and unloading of as yet unspecified cargo occupying the minds of many.

One who spent what could be termed the year-end break doing his best to find out is indefatigable Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais.

His first port of call was Thandi Modise via a letter on 8 December, hours after the Russian Federation registered cargo vessel docked under cover of darkness.

His faxed letter, to which there is as yet no response, points out “much, unsubstantiated information” about Lady R’s arrival in the home port of the SA Navy (SAN) fleet and mysterious loading and unloading. With a general perception of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as an organisation with a “fragile image”, Marais appeals to the Defence and Military Veterans Minister to make available information to put the Russian cargo ship’s visit into the proper perspective.

“My interest is the integrity of our nation and the safety of our people, both in serious doubt with the little official information now available,” he informed Modise.

Marais’ investigations support the Lady R delivering materiel, probably ammunition, for SANDF Special Forces. He believes the delivery was to fill an order placed by the national defence and security acquisition agency, Armscor. “It is a longstanding order, outstanding since pre-COVID-19 restrictions with logistic arrangements the responsibility of AB Logistics (an Armscor entity),” he told defenceWeb adding the ammunition, seemingly including “eastern bloc” rounds, was destined for 92 Ammunition Depot at Witbank in Mpumalanga.

As matters stand currently Marais maintains he – and the rest of South Africa – are still in the dark almost four weeks on after the arrival of Lady R and her subsequent departure from the country’s premier naval base.

Modise, speaking at a military veterans’ pension media briefing in Pretoria days before Christmas, briefly alluded to the Lady R saying she was “awaiting papers”.