Call to review arms deal findings

Pretoria - Corruption Watch and the Right2Know Campaign have launched an application in the high court in Pretoria asking for a review and setting aside of the findings of the Arms Procurement Commission.

The Arms Procurement Commission – or Seriti Commission – was concluded last December, but the findings were only released to the public in April.

File image. Credit: [email protected]

“The Seriti Commission’s findings cannot be allowed to stand. This review seeks to ensure that a great crime against the people of South Africa will not be whitewashed,” said Patience Mkosana, spokesperson for Corruption Watch.

“Challenging the arms deal cover-up is particularly relevant given the struggles today against state capture, in an environment in which investigations of irregular expenditure and large-scale contracts are increasingly hampered and suppressed.”

In 2011, President Jacob Zuma announced a commission of inquiry into the R30 billion purchase of weaponry for the SANDF, which came to be known as the arms deal.

The deal was plagued by allegations of corruption that led to the call for the commission, which was established and led by Judge Willie Seriti.

The commission found that there was no evidence of corrupt activity in the deal.

Furthermore, the commission found there was no basis to suggest that the contracts should be cancelled.

In the report, the commission said the main accusers, Dr Richard Young and Terry Crawford-Browne, had little to no evidence corroborating their statements of bribery and corruption.

However, Corruption Watch and Right2Know in their founding affidavit in court claimed that the commission failed to undertake a proper investigation.

“The commission refused to consider thousands of pages of evidence from previous investigations, and failed to gather or admit highly incriminating evidence despite having the power to do so,” Mkosana said.

The affidavit deals with the legal duties of a commission and how the law requires it to do its duty.

It further looked at the essence of the allegations of the arms deal, and multiple examples of how the commission failed to gather relevant material or call material witnesses and properly investigate the evidence and allegations that were before it.

It also claimed that the commission failed to admit into evidence material that was highly relevant to the inquiry, as well as how it failed to seek or allow information from important material witnesses.

The applicants also alleged the commission failed to test evidence placed before it.

Among the respondents were Zuma, Judge Seriti, commission member Hendrick Musi and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development, as well as the ministers of defence and of trade and industry.

It is also alleged that the report was the culmination of four years’ work at a cost of R137m to taxpayers, which was R97m more than the initial budget.

“This deal has deeply corrupted the politics of South Africa, and sits at the heart of the country’s fight against corruption and state capture,” the applicants said.