President Ramaphosa appoints panel to investigate docking of Russian vessel

Sunday, May 28, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a three-member independent panel to enquire into the circumstances of the docking of the Russian vessel known as Lady R in Simonstown, Western Cape, in December 2022.

This follows President Ramaphosa’s announcement on 11 May 2023, that he would establish an independent inquiry headed by a retired judge.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Presidency announced that the President has appointed Judge Phineas Mojapelo as Chairperson, together with Advocate Leah Gcabashe SC, and Enver Surty as other members of the panel.

“Through this inquiry, government seeks to establish the circumstances that led to the docking of the ship and the alleged loading of cargo, and the departure of the Lady R cargo ship from Simonstown, during the period from 6 to 9 December 2022.

“The President decided to establish the enquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations, the extent of public interest and the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations. The panel has been tasked to establish persons who were aware of the cargo ship’s arrival, and, if any, the contents to be off-loaded or loaded, the departure and destination of the cargo,” Spokesperson to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Vincent Magwenya, said.

Magwenya added that the panel will evaluate whether constitutional, legal or other obligations were complied with in relation to the cargo ship’s arrival, its stay, the loading or off-loading of its contents, and its departure.

He said the panel’s report will include recommendations on any steps that may need to be taken in light of their findings, or as a result of any breaches that may have occurred.

“The panel will report directly to the President and will be supported administratively by personnel in the Presidency assigned to this task by the Director-General in the Presidency.

“The panel will finalise its investigation within 6 weeks of its appointment and will be expected to submit its report to the President within two weeks of concluding its work. The panel may request an extension of this time frame should it be necessary,” Magwenya explained. –