Corruption Watch says they have new evidence of Mbeki’s ‘secret’ arms deal meetings

Former president Thabo Mbeki.  Image: Twitter/@castrongobese

Former president Thabo Mbeki. Image: Twitter/@castrongobese

Civil society organisations claim to have uncovered ‘damning’ proof that the Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry failed to do its job.

On Thursday on Corruption Watch’s website, Corruption Watch (CW) and the Right2Know (R2K) Campaign revealed that they had submitted “damning new evidence to the High Court that the Arms Deal Commission failed to do its job”.

They claim that their new evidence shows the commission “not only failed in its investigation – but it misled the public”.

They said they first filed their application almost two years ago, but the process had been hampered by the state attorney’s numerous alleged delays in filing the documents that then led the commission under Judge Willie Seriti to “conclude that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal”.

“The record relates to letters, memoranda, reports, minutes and other material that was before the Seriti Commission, upon which its findings were based, and which have never previously been released to the public.

“Today, CW and R2K filed its supplementary affidavit based on parts of the record of decision that were eventually provided to the applicants, although these were still incomplete.”

They said the documents in question allege three things:

  • firstly, that the commission lied to the public and hid evidence of corruption;
  • secondly, by failing to access information abroad, the commission made no attempt to investigate serious allegations of corruption put before it;
  • and thirdly, that the commission has failed to investigate new allegations that have come to light.

“Never has it been more important to expose the flawed and inadequate processes followed by the Seriti Commission, and the way that key information was ignored, so as to arrive at the conclusion that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal,” said Leanne Govindsamy, head of legal and investigations at Corruption Watch.

They provided an accompanying detailed note that outlined the nature and extent of “important, previously undisclosed information, which illustrates how evidence of corruption was either ignored or not considered by the commission”.

This, they said included that (in their words):

  • There was evidence that then president Thabo Mbeki, Seth Phalatse, Richard Charter and Niall Irving had an “intimate dinner’’ in 1998, during the arms deal selection process. Mbeki was the head of the Cabinet sub-committee tasked with the selection process, Phalatse was at Armscor, and the others were agents and employees of BAE Systems. The commission did not investigate these allegations, nor was Mbeki questioned about this during his appearance, and no mention of the allegation was made in the commission’s report.
  • Information on how the commission was advised that Seth Phalatse paid bribes to Sipho Zikode, an official at the department of trade and industry, in order to secure ‘offset credits’ for a BAE Systems project. The commission did not investigate this at all, Seth Phalatse was never called to give evidence, and it was not mentioned in the commission’s final report.

They said it was of particular concern that, in addition to not investigating these matters, the commission “lied to and misled the public about other key aspects of the arms deal”.

“These documents, released at long last by the state, are a vindication of civil society efforts to get transparency and accountability from the Arms Deal commission when it was still sitting – which the commission refused. This case must help ensure that, going forward, commissions of inquiry honour their mandate with independence and fairness”, said R2K’s National Working Group member Alfred Tshabalala.

They said that at the hearings of the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa, which took place from 3-7 February 2018, CW, R2K and civil society partner Open Secrets gave evidence of alleged corruption in the 1999 arms deal and subsequent repeated attempts to cover this up.

“Other evidence presented to the tribunal covered apartheid-era sanctions busting and state capture related to Denel, which served to join the dots between economic crimes of the past and present.”

Corruption Watch noted in its final report read out by retired Constitutional Court Justice Zac Yacoob on 20 September that the tribunal noted the need to “tread carefully” regarding the arms deal findings and recommendations, in light of these current review proceedings. However, the report also stated: “The judicial review proceedings in respect of the Seriti Commission report do not preclude and cannot bar an investigation into the Arms Deal and the prosecution of those implicated by any evidence that we might have heard.”

Corruption Watch said further recommendations included urging the National Prosecuting Authority and SA Police Service to investigate transactions conducted during the arms deal.

“We therefore welcome the current prosecution of French arms giant Thales and former president Jacob Zuma for their alleged corrupt relationship in the arms deal. However, there is long list of global corporations and politicians who are equally deserving of investigation and prosecution.”

To see all their affidavits and evidence papers related to this case, click here to go to Corruption Watch’s website.

(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)

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