Now we know: Lady R was here to deliver high-powered weapons

The cat has been let out of the bag!

Sunday World can today exclusively reveal that Russian vessel, Lady R, which docked at the Simon’s Town in Cape Town, did so with the sole purpose of delivering high-calibre weapons South Africa procured for its law enforcement agencies to combat rampant organised crime in the country.

Investigations by Sunday World revealed that the South African government procured the weapons before the Covid-19 outbreak after realising  that to meet the gangs’ firepower pound for pound, the state needed to purchase heavy weaponry, which the country’s law enforcement agencies did not have.

To avoid the risk of foreign spies flooding the market with the same artillery and arming crime syndicates to sabotage the government’s crime-fighting efforts, Sunday World has been informed that the details of the weapons are to be kept top secret.

The startling revelations will put paid to raging accusations by international communities that the South African government had sponsored Russia with weapons in its invasion of Ukraine.

Our investigations revealed that the classified transaction was supposed to be concluded without a fuss. But delays allegedly resulted when the SA Revenue Service (Sars) got involved in the processing of the goods aboard before they could be disembarked.

The revelation marks the six-week deadline on which a three-member independent panel appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa is to inquire into circumstances that led to the vessel landing on the base in Cape Town in December last year. 

Top government officials, who did not want to be named because they are not allowed to speak to the media, said that since its formation, the panel had been idling.

This because no witnesses had come forward to give testimony on the alleged shipment of weapons to Russia in support of the superpower’s Ukrainian invasion, including the opposition DA and US ambassador, Reuben Brigety II.

Ramaphosa appointed retired judge Phineas Mojapelo to chair the panel. Advocate Leah Gcabashe, SC, and Enver Surty, an attorney who served as cabinet minister, will assist Mojapelo. The panel’s mandate is to establish who knew of the cargo ship’s arrival and establish the contents to be offloaded or loaded, as well as the departure and destination of the cargo

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said he would not comment on the Lady R inquiry until the independent panel delivered a report to the president.

 Defence Minister Thandi Modise came close to letting the cat out of the bag during a media briefing last December. She said the cargo offloaded by the Russian ship Lady R was “an old, outstanding order for ammunition used by the special forces”.

Modise refused to provide details on the vessel’s contents, saying it would be a wild guess until she received all the paperwork. But in countering claims that South Africa had breached international sanctions by trading with Russia, Modise was adamant the transaction was concluded before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais said Mojapelo, and his panel, must be aware of the opposition party’s role and the knowledge it had already shared in the media and in parliament.

“I assume they’ve considered whether they need further interactions with us. No one has reached out to me to give evidence, share information, or get clarity. Clearly, they have no interest in consulting with the DA and me,” said Marais.

He said while Modise had stated that nothing was loaded, and later modified her version slightly, Ramaphosa had already said the findings would not be made public, not even to parliament or defence committees.

“Is the panel’s purpose then to give legitimacy to their denial, and thus a cover up of epic proportions? The fact that no witnesses have stepped forward indicates to what extent the public has no faith and trust in this panel, and in the president’s sincerity to expose corruption and abuse of state resources, and to protect our sovereignty from Russian influences,” he said.

“We’ll keep a close eye on the outcome of the panel’s findings (in terms of whatever will become available in due course) and obviously compare it with the corroborated facts we have. We’ll consider further options in due course,” he said.

Ramaphosa said in May he established an inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations. He also wanted to establish the extent of public interest and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations.

The panel will evaluate whether constitutional, legal, or other obligations were complied with, including recommendations on any steps to be taken because of any breaches that may have occurred.

When approached for comment, Sars declined stating there would be no need to comment at this stage.

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