After receiving the final Lady R independent panel report on Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will determine what steps to take.
Ramaphosa charged an independent three-member commission, led by retired Judge Phineas Mojapelo, with investigating claims that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia via Lady R, the Russian cargo vessel that docked at the Simon’s Town naval port in Cape Town on December 9, 2022.
On June 6, the panel began its probe.
Following the president’s announcement in May of an investigation into the claims, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni denied any government-authorized transfer of weaponry to Russia.
“There is no official authorisation for weapons to be sold to Russia and Ukraine. Whether weapons were loaded or not; that’s another matter. There is no authorisation and if the weapons were loaded in the vessel, the inquiry will determine that,” she said in an interview with Radio 702.
The Presidency has hinted that key sections of the inquiry report into the alleged loading of armaments for Russia – to bolster its attack on Ukraine – onboard the Lady R would be made public on Thursday, 3 August.
Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya revealed at a press conference that the long-awaited confidential report had been completed.
“The panel concluded its investigation, there was a submission that arrived late which caused a minor delay for the panel. The chair of the panel did not request a deadline extension.
“By the end of business tomorrow [Friday] the report will be completed and will be ready for handover to the president as soon as his schedule permits.
“Once the president has consumed the report he will then decide on the actions to be followed as guided by the report and on the aspects of the report that will be made public,” Magwenya concluded.
Ramaphosa earlier ordered the commission into the highly publicised Lady R controversy six weeks to complete its work.
The investigative report comes on the heels of charges made by the US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, that the Lady R transported weaponry from South Africa onto the US-sanctioned Russian vessel.
Brigety’s charge that South Africa was sending weapons to Russia created turbulent seas for the administration to traverse in the interests of South Africa’s relations with the US.
Brigety has subsequently apologised for his remarks, which he made during a meeting with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.
The Russian Federation-flagged cargo vessel taking on and reportedly discharging cargo at night during load shedding added fuel to rumours about her presence in South Africa, notably the home port of the SA Naval fleet.
“Whether this was planned or thanks to Eskom, we’ll probably never know,” a navy pensioner told defenceWeb at the time.