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Panel of inquiry into Lady R must not be misused to allow politicians to get off scot-free

It is clear to the FF Plus that President Cyril Ramaphosa has overreacted by appointing a three-member judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Russian freight ship Lady R.

It would be totally unacceptable if the panel were to try and make ordinary officials the scapegoats in the matter to allow politicians to get off scot-free.

This overreaction demonstrates that the incident is a great embarrassment for government. The Lady R docked at Simon’s Town in December and some cargo was reportedly loaded onto the ship in the dead of night.

It is not necessary to appoint a comprehensive panel of inquiry consisting of three persons. One person would have been able to do the job.

In this case, the retired Judge Phineas Mojapelo will head the investigation. He will be assisted by adv Leah Gcabashe (SC) and Mr Enver Surty.

The President should just ask the National Conventional Arms Control Committee to provide him with the documentation relating to the incident.

The law requires that all import and export of arms must be approved by this Committee.

Given President Ramaphosa’s apparent reluctance to take decisive action in many other instances, his decision to appoint a panel must be welcomed, nonetheless.

It confirms the fact that the incident is a great embarrassment for the President and government.

The panel must pay special attention to the political approval needed for any arms deals of this nature.

Approval must obviously have been granted on a high level for the Military Naval Base at Simon’s Town to be used for a transaction where arms reportedly changed hands. The FF Plus will monitor the unfolding of events closely.

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