Review of arms deal commission’s findings starts

The High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Moneyweb

The High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Moneyweb

The applicants argue that the arms procurement commission failed to execute its mandate, which was to probe whether there was corruption in the arms deal.

The application to review and set aside the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Fraud, Corruption, Impropriety or Irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages chaired by Judge Willie Seriti will be heard in the High Court in Pretoria today and tomorrow.

The applicants, Corruption Watch (CW) and Right2Know, said the fact that this application would receive a public hearing in court was the result of civil society’s pressure and determination to hold those accountable for corruption in the arms deal responsible.

“It is in the public’s interest for commissions of inquiry to ensure proceedings are transparent and uncover the facts they were set up to investigate,” said CW yesterday.

The two applicants argued that the arms procurement commission failed to execute its mandate, which was to investigate whether there was corruption in the arms deal. It concluded there was not.

“The Commissions Act requires a commission of inquiry not simply to listen to the evidence before it, but to go out and investigate the matter. And it did not do that. It simply relied on evidence presented to it, and took that evidence in a very selective manner.

“The commission actively ignored or excluded evidence. The procedures adopted by the commission were highly questionable; deeply flawed and irregular.”

Corruption Watch said the application would ensure those implicated in corruption in the arms deal could no longer claim they had been exonerated and might even face legal consequences for their actions.

“In April, the Presidency made it clear it would not oppose the application and would make submissions in court. Next week is an opportunity to highlight the ways the commission failed to comply with its mandate.

“This includes how the commission misled the public and ignored evidence of corruption; how it failed to access information abroad and to investigate serious allegations of corruption put before it or to investigate new allegations that have come to light,” the anticorruption body said.

The commission was set up in 2011 by Jacob Zuma.

He appointed Judge Willie Seriti, a justice of the Supreme Court, to head it, flanked by Judges Willem van der Merwe and Francis Legodi. The latter both resigned before the hearings began.

Seriti was then assisted by Judge Hendrick Musi, Judge President of the Free State High Court.

A senior investigator and a law researcher also quit before proceedings began and the commission’s secretary, a top attorney, was found dead, apparently by his own hand, in KwaZulu-Natal in 2012.

In 1999, the government signed the final contracts for the arms deal.

In 2011, Terry Crawford-Brown approached the Constitutional Court in a bid to force Zuma to set up a commission of inquiry into the procurement packages and allegations of criminal misconduct resulting from it.

Zuma agreed to set up a commission of inquiry.

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