The Lady R did not load South African weapons or ammunition when it called at the Simon’s Town Naval Base in December.

The primary cargo was an old arms order that the SANDF had placed with Russia before the Covid-19 pandemic, consisting largely of lighter weapons and ammunition.

And the cargo ship did load food and other supplies for its return trip to Russia. 

These are the main findings from the final report of the judicial panel of investigation, according to informed sources in the security cluster. 

News24 reports that Vincent Magwenya, the Presidential spokesperson, confirmed that the investigation by the panel chaired by retired senior Judge Phineas Mojapelo was completed on schedule on 18 July.

The report had to be finished by Friday and be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa as soon as his programme allowed.

According to government insiders, the panel did not determine why the ship turned off its on-board identification systems before it entered the naval base.

That aspect was not part of the panel’s mandate, the sources said. The findings confirm Defence & Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise claims that the cargo was an old order of weapons from Russia.

They were intended for use in the military intervention in northern Mozambique where there is an ongoing insurgence.

The delivery had become urgent due to a chronic lack of ammunition, especially on the part of the Mozambican army which, together with South African and other soldiers from the SADC region, is fighting the extremist groups.

The decision to equip some of the SANDF’s special forces with Russian weapons – presumably AK-47s – facilitated the standardisation of ammunition with that of the Mozambicans. 

News24 notes that Magwenya said that after studying the report, Ramaphosa will decide whether to make parts of it public.

Ramaphosa ordered the judicial investigation after statements by the US ambassador to SA, Reuben Brigety, triggered a diplomatic storm between the two countries in May.

Brigety told a group of journalists that he ‘bet his life’ that SA weapons were loaded on to the vessel.

Full News24 report