Judges Musi and Seriti preside over the Arms Procurement Commission. File picture: Chris Collingridge

Pretoria - Corruption Watch which brought a review application into the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the controversial arms deal, has indicated that it does not want a re-opening of the Commission after the high court on Wednesday set aside its findings.

On Wednesday, the North Gauteng High Court reviewed and set aside the findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the controversial arms deal. 

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

Corruption Watch lawyer Caroline James said the organisation did not possess the powers to advocate for the re-opening of the commission but were hoping that the National Prosecuting Authority would take action and that President Cyril Ramaphosa will use his discretion on the matter. 

"Corruption Watch is not calling for the re-opening of the Commission into the arms deal. The reason we brought this application was to confirm the conduct in which Commissions must conduct themselves," said James.

James said the impact of Wednesday's judgment creates a precedent that commissions of inquiry must conduct themselves in accordance with the principles of legality and rationality

The inquiry cost almost R140 million, which was also one of the organisation's concerns in requesting a re-opening.

When handing down judgment, Judge Dustan Mlambo said it was accepted that courts must 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," he found.

"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".

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.

African News Agency (ANA)