File photo: Brenda Masilela/African News Agency (ANA)
File photo: Brenda Masilela/African News Agency (ANA)

Court hears Arms Deal commission was ‘riddled with unfairness’

By BALDWIN NDABA Time of article published Jun 12, 2019

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Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa has backed the claim by Corruption Watch and the Right2know Campaign that the Arms Procurement Commission headed by Judge Willie Seriti was permeated with unfairness.

The organisations want the High Court to review and set aside the Seriti Commission’s arms deal findings.

Ramaphosa made the submission through his legal counsel, advocate Nazeer Cassim, when he told the full bench of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that he was not opposing the application to review and set aside the April 2016 findings by Seriti which exonerated politicians and public servants in wrongdoing during the arms deal saga.

However, Ramaphosa’s legal counsel urged the full bench not to make a finding which would have a binding effect on the commissions under way in the country, such as the probe into state capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Cassim said Ramaphosa was of the view that the processes at the Seriti Commission were “permeated with unfairness”.

Ramaphosa made the concession after the civil society organisations led evidence that the commission failed to investigate claims by the German police and Swiss authorities that arms acquisitions head Chippy Shaik was offered $3 million to allocate certain foreign companies a stake in the R60 billion arms deal.

The commission also failed to investigate claims that Shaik, ANC heavyweight Tony Yengeni, Tony Georgiades and Vice-Admiral Simpson Anderson accrued major benefits from the arms deal. 

Advocate Geoff Budlender SC, acting for the civil society organisations, argued that the commission failed to apply for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) from the Germans and Swiss to assist in probing acts of corruption in the arms deal in South Africa.

The full bench of the High Court also heard how former Cabinet minister Stella Sigcau allegedly lobbied one of the British companies, which made bids for the Hawk and Gripen aircraft, to financially assist her daughter in September 1998 following the breakdown of her marriage. 

The company BAE - allegedly made separate payments to Sigcau and paid for her grandchildren’s school fees in London.

According to Budlender, all the evidence was before the commission but it failed to question those implicated. 

Budlender also pointed out that advocate Fana Hlongwane who was adviser to former public enterprises minister Sigcau, according to information before the court, had received various payments possibly amounting to billions but the Seriti commission failed to probe this despite being in possession of the information.

He said the commission simply accepted Hlongwane’s version that his accusers were jealous of him because he was “a successful black businessman”.

Budlender said Shaik and Hlongwane appeared before the commission but were not grilled on the pertinent allegations against them.

“In the case of Mr Shaik, he was just asked ‘what is your response to the allegations against you’. His reply was a blatant denial and the judge said “thank you” and no further questions were asked,” Budlender said.

Political Bureau

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