JOHANNESBURG - WHISTLEBLOWERS and campaigners against the multibillion-rand arms deal have not given up on justice for taxpayers after the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC) confirmed it was investigating complaints against two judges who probed the transaction.
Whistleblower Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille wants the R137 million spent on the commission headed by retired Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Willie Seriti to be recovered from evidence leaders, the lawyers and investigators it employed.
De Lille, unlike other whistleblowers, former IFP MP Dr. Gavin Woods and Terry Crawford-Browne, does not want the commission to be reinstituted.
Instead she wants a criminal investigation into the allegations of corruption in the R142 billion deal she first publicised during a sitting of the National Assembly on September 9, 1999.
This week, Seriti and retired judge Hendrick Musi, a member of the commission, were reported to the JCC by Open Secrets and Shadow World Investigations for presiding over the sham inquiry whose report and findings were reviewed and set aside by the North Gauteng High Court in 2019 by a full bench –Judges President Dunstan Mlambo (Gauteng), Dennis Davis (Competition Appeal Court [now retired]) and Monica Leeuw (North West).
De Lille told Independent Media that the first problem with the Seriti commission was its terms of reference that it must report to former president Jacob Zuma, who has been facing corruption, fraud and money laundering charges relating to the arms deal for over a decade.
Zuma’s corruption trial is scheduled to resume on Monday.
The GOOD Party leader believes the commission had a predetermined outcome.
”When I was subpoenaed the evidence leaders were very hostile towards us (witnesses and whistleblowers),” De Lille said.
According to the former Cape Town mayor, the dossier she presented in Parliament almost 22 years ago has led to two successful prosecutions – ex-ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and Zuma’s erstwhile financial advisor Schabir Shaik, who were both jailed for fraud.
De Lille said the commission demanded evidence from her despite handing over her dossier to it for further investigation.
”R137m is a lot of money. We have to recover it from the evidence leaders, senior counsel and other lawyers. They did not do any investigations, it’s very sad,” she explained.
De Lille insisted that it was too late to reinstitute the commission and that judges Seriti and Musi have to accept its outcome and account for the money spent.
She suggested that the country should spend money on arms deal-related prosecutions and putting in place systems to detect corruption.
Woods, who was the chairperson of the National Assembly’s standing committee on public accounts when the arms deal was approved, said while he was not sure where the JCC process would ultimately result in Seriti and Musi should face consequences for the commission.
”My wish has always been that we could reopen the investigation because the truth has not come out yet,” Woods maintained.
He described the Seriti commission as lacking in-depth investigations.
”It was a whitewash, it made things easy for Zuma,” Woods said.
Crawford-Browne, who 2010 Constitutional Court application forced Zuma to appoint the commission a year later, said the JCC probe was a huge step forward.
In 2018, Crawford-Browne, the veteran campaigner against the arms deal, filed a complaint against Judge Seriti at the commission of inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Crawford-Browne said he was informed by one of the state capture inquiry’s investigators that the commission did not have capacity to probe his complaint.
In August last year, he filed an affidavit in support of Open Secrets and Shadow World Investigations’ complaint against judges Seriti and Musi.
Justice Zondo, who is acting as JCC chairperson, informed the organisations that he had referred their complaint to the committee to consider whether or not it should be investigated by a judicial tribunal.
The JCC will consider the matter next month and judges Seriti and Musi have until next Friday to make representations.