Panel investigating Lady R docking must answer tough questions

Issued by Kobus Marais MP – DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans
29 May 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached Afrikaans and English soundbite by Kobus Marais MP.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint an independent panel of three members to investigate the circumstances surrounding the docking of the Russian vessel, known as Lady R, in Simonstown, Western Cape , in December 2022.

However, it is worrying that the investigation will last six weeks with an option to apply for extension if necessary.

We believe the investigation must reveal why government did not respond in time to the advance warning by the United States of America about the visit of the Lady R, although the ship’s was never suppose to dock at a South African port.

Given the president’s sudden appetite to resolve this matter be it due to international diplomatic and business pressure, answers must be provided to the following pressing questions:

  • Why was the ship allowed to avoid the official entry and exit points of Portnet ports and abused our naval base?
  • Can the cargo manifest of Lady R be confirmed and where are copies of it? Lady-R’s cargo manifest should be made available, according to international shipping regulations it should always be on hand and should have the cargo information available.
  • Who gave permission for the Lady R to be escorted to the Simonstown naval base by two naval vessels and who gave permission for AB Logistics, Armscor’s logistics company, to use the base?
  • Whether AB Logistics was responsible for the receipt and delivery of the cargo at the Ammu depot in Mookgopong, as well as the delivery of any loaded cargo?
  • The ammunition import permits approved in 2019 and 2020 were still valid. What was the valid import period of these permits? If extended, when was the application made and when was it approved by the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC)?
  • Who gave permission for the relaxation of the safety and security measures of the naval base, so that the movement of cargo, vehicles and persons could take place almost unhindered during the nights of 6-8 December 2022?
  • Whether the Minister of Defence, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Navy were involved in these permissions or at least aware of them. If not, why not, and if so, what were their roles and why were they never acknowledged?
  • At all times, authorized officials from the SARS, Department of Home Affairs, Department of Trade Industry and Competition and SAPS were available and involved in the unloading and loading of the cargo. If not, why not, and if so, what were their instructions and roles in this regard?

Moreover, we need to know what the Department of International Relations’ role was since the American ambassador said South Africa was informed on a diplomatic level before the Lady R’s arrival in SA.

Only once these pressing questions are answered and those responsible for this diplomatic blunder are brought to book will we be satisfied.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to keep a close eye on the work done by the appointed panel and hold the government accountable until appropriate action is taken to ensure the security and sovereignty of our great nation.