Court rules Arms Deal commission 'failed to do job it was appointed to do'
Pretoria - The Seriti Commission which appointed to probe allegations of corruption and fraud during the acquisition arms deal since 1999 until 2003 had “materially failed to do a job which it was appointed to do”.
This was the damning ruling of the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning following an application by two civil society organisations, Corruption Watch and Right2Know Campaign, to set aside the ruling of Judge Willie Seriti.
Seriti was appointed to chair the commission in October 2011 to probe allegations of corruption and malfeasance and he made his final findings on December 23, 2015.
In his findings, Judge Seriti and his team found no substantive allegations of corruption against politicians and other officials, especially former SANDF Arms Acquisition head Chippy Shaik and businessman Adv Fana Hlongwane.
The full bench comprising Judge Dennis David, North Gauteng High Court’s Judge President Dunstan Mlambo and North West Judge President Monica Leeuw, however, agreed with Corruption Watch and Right2know Campaign that the Commission had failed to do their job.
The full bench accepted submission of Adv Geoff Budlender who argued that Judge Seriti failed to probe allegations that Shaik had instructed CSF Thomson to give a certain portion of business in the African Defence System to his brother Schabir Shaik through his company Nkobi Holdings.
Budlender also submitted that Shaik had also derived certain financial benefits from the deal which were brought to the attention of Judge Seriti but he failed to admit as evidence before him.
The full bench also found that there was evidence that Hlongwange had received more than R1.5 billion rand in payments for his “unexplained consultancy work” with BAE - a British arms company - but the commission failed to interrogate him on those allegations.
The judges also found that the Commission had refused to admit the final report of the Auditor-General who made several findings of corruption during the arms acquisition procurement processes but Judge Seriti refused to accept it as evidence.
They also found that Judge Seriti refused to admit the judgment against Shabir following his conviction of fraud and corruption related to the arms deal as well as evidence contained in the upcoming trial for former president Jacob Zuma which also relates to the arms.
The judges found that there was evidence that Schabir received a bribe from CSF Thomson of more than R500 000 and also that Zuma had allegedly given the same company a commitment to protect them from criminal prosecution.
In summary of their judgemnt, the Judges said they agreed to set aside the findings of the Seriti Commission “material based on the submission of Corruption Watch and Right2know Campaign”.
“We were also bound to agree with the applicants (Corruption Watch and Right2Know Campaign) because their matter was not opposed.
“The president (Cyril Ramaphosa) who set up the commission did not oppose the applications,” the judges ruled.