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Pretoria - The North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday reviewed and set aside the findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the controversial arms deal.

Corruption Watch and the Right2Know brought an application to review and set aside the findings of the controversial commission, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, which both organisations argued misled the public by exonerating politicians and public servants.

The inquiry cost almost R140 million.

Judge Dustan Mlambo handing down judgment,  said while it was accepted that courts must to be cautious before exercising any power of review over the proceedings of a commission.

"Where the uncontested evidence reveals so manifest a set of errors of law, a clear failure to test evidence of key witnesses, a refusal to take account of documentary evidence which contained the most serious allegations which were relevant to its inquiry, the principal of legality dictates only one conclusion: that the findings of such a commission must be set aside".

"The findings of first respondent... are hereby reviewed and set aside."

Mlambo slammed the manner in which the commission's evidence leaders approached key witnesses, particularly Chippy Shaik and Fana Hlongwane, saying it displayed "a complete failure to rigorously test the versions of these witnesses". 

"Given the wealth of allegations contained in material in the possession of the commission against them, it failed to confront these witnesses with these serious allegations which were made against both with respect of corruption and wrongdoing."

The judgment was unanimous.

This is the second application to have the commission's findings set aside. The first application was brought by anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne but that was dismissed by the courts. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa did not oppose Corruption Watch and Right2Know's application.

The commission was announced in 2011, two years into Jacob Zuma’s tenure as president. Zuma’s establishment of the Commission is widely considered to have been done under duress, and the commission itself was dogged by allegations of bias, exclusion of witnesses, and a flood of senior staff resignations.

The mandate of the commission was to investigate allegations of large-scale bribery and corruption in the multi-billion rand military acquisition project which was finalised in 1999, during former President Thabo Mbeki’s tenure.

The commission found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Cabinet of the day or any government official. 

* This is a developing story

Political Bureau