An independent investigation into the docking of the Lady R vessel at the Simon’s Town Naval Base in the Western Cape has found no evidence to support allegations that South Africa supplied weapons to Russia during the current Ukraine-Russia conflict.
This was revealed by President Cyril Ramaphosa during an address to the nation on Sunday evening.
In May, the President appointed an independent panel led by Judge Phineas Mojapelo to investigate the allegations.
“From its investigation, the panel found no evidence that any cargo of weapons was loaded for export onto the ship Lady R. The panel found that there was no evidence to support the claim that the ship transported weapons from South Africa destined for Russia,” he said.
The President laid out what, according to the panel’s investigation, the purpose of the docking was.
“The panel established that the ship docked at Simonstown to deliver equipment that had been ordered for the South African National Defence Force in 2018 by Armscor, the country’s arms procurement company. In terms of the contract for the supply of the arms, neither Armscor nor the South African National Defence Force had any control over the means through which the supplier of the ordered equipment would transport them to South Africa.
“In its report, the panel outlined the circumstances that led to the docking of the vessel in Simonstown, as well as the type of goods supplied and the reasons why the goods were unloaded at the time they were offloaded,” he said.
The President lamented the damage the allegations have had on South Africa.
“In recent months, statements from several quarters have used these allegations to call into question South Africa’s commitment to its position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The allegations levelled against our country had a damaging effect on our currency, economy and our standing in the world. In fact, it tarnished our image as a country.
“When all matters are considered, none of the allegations made about the supply of weapons to Russia have been proven to be true, and none of the persons who made these allegations could provide any evidence to support the claims that had been levelled against our country,” he said.
Investigation and recommendations
President Ramaphosa delved deeper into the report and shared that extensive evidence was collected.
“During the course of its work, the panel visited the Simonstown naval base and obtained evidence under oath from nearly 50 people in every relevant component of government. More than 100 documents were submitted to the panel for examination.
“A number of entities and persons that had publicly claimed to have information on this matter were invited to make submissions to the panel. Many of those invited either failed to do so or said they had no independent knowledge of the relevant facts,” he said.
The President added that beyond its findings, the panel made recommendations with “an implementation plan be developed to address these”.
“The panel did not find any evidence of criminal conduct by any persons involved. However, the panel made findings and recommendations with respect to the functioning of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee.
“It also made recommendations about the improvement of communication between Ministers and government officials, including the adequacy of the relevant administrative processes,” President Ramaphosa said.
The full details of the report will not be made public due to its classified nature. However, an executive summary is expected be made available to the public.