CFE (Campaign for Free Expression) calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to release the complete report regarding the alleged loading of arms onto the Russian cargo ship Lady R in Simonstown.
The Presidency this week confirmed the completion of the report, which was initiated after US Ambassador Rueben Brigety stated he would “bet his life” that South African weapons were loaded onto the Russian vessel. The inquiry was overseen by retired Judge Phineas Mojapelo.
However, the Presidency has asserted that the panel’s work will not be made public due to issues concerning national security and classified information.
On June 15, CFE wrote to Judge Mojapelo, emphasising the matter’s public interest and the importance of allowing public participation. CFE urged the Judge to conduct interviews in public and make all documentation and evidence available (save for classified material).
The allegations about Lady R have serious constitutional and international relations implications, CFE said. It quoted a Supreme Court of Appeal Judgement (City of Cape Town versus SANRA): “Secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. It prevents the public from knowing what decision was made, why it was made and whether it was justifiable”.
So far, all evidence gathering, interviews, and hearings have been conducted behind closed doors, raising concerns about the lack of openness in the process.
In response to CFE’s concerns, the Presidency said that some confidentiality would be required and that the panel would use its discretion. However, a decision on whether to publish all or part of the report would only be made when the Presidency saw the contents.
Now that the report is being delivered, CFE reiterates its call for maximum transparency, with classified information being the only exception. CFE believes that anything less than the highest level of openness and accountability would contradict the Constitutional commitment to openness.
CFE urges President Ramaphosa to act in line with the Constitution and practise maximum transparency. That was the only way to ensure the report had the credibility to bring closure to the controversy.
*CFE is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation dedicated to safeguarding and expanding the right to free expression for all, empowering individuals to exercise this right to the fullest extent.
For further information, please contact: Anton Harber, Executive Director
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