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Released on: June 6, 2023

Lady R inquiry

The pre-emptive decision by the Presidency that the Lady R inquiry, its work, its terms of
reference and its report will not be published cannot stand unchallenged. If this stands, it
renders the inquiry redundant in that secrecy will increase the suspicion that the
government has something to hide and defeat the purpose of clearing the air on the matter.
It is fundamentally in contradiction with the constitutional principles of transparency and
The inquiry follows the allegation from US Ambassador Ruben Brigety that weapons were
loaded onto the sanctioned Russian ship in the Simonstown naval base. One of the reasons
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave for calling an inquiry was “the extent of the public interest”
in the matter.
The presidency says it must be secret because it involves issues of national security and
classified information. National security is the first refuge of those who have something to
hide, those who are prepared to abuse their power to keep information from the public. The
military and security agencies love to make all their work secret, but it is seldom justified,
and most often abused to hide wrongdoing.
If there are secrets there that are so sensitive that they threaten our national security, then
they can ask the retired judge who is chairing the inquiry to keep that specific information
under wraps. The judge makes an independent assessment of the sensitivity of each
document. But a pre-emptive blanket ban on all the evidence, process and outcomes goes
way beyond what can possible be needed, and points to a pre-planned cover-up. Even if the
inquiry is thorough and honest, it will be forever tainted.
There is a precedent. President Mbeki sent two judges to examine whether there was voterigging in the 2002 Zimbabwe elections. He suppressed the report on the grounds of
national security. When this was challenged, and after a five-year legal battle the courts
ordered its release.
If the government tries the same trickery this time, it will at the very least ensure that the
controversy and government’s trustworthiness is in the news for many years. It is a false,
self-defeating secrecy.
It must be challenged.
*The Campaign for Free Expressions is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation that defends
and promotes free expression for all across southern Africa.
Contact: Anton Harber, Executive Director

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