Tomorrow (Tuesday 11 June) and Wednesday marks the culmination of “several years of dogged scrutiny of the flawed processes” that saw the Seriti Commission pronounce South Africa’s multi-billion Rand arms acquisition deal above board and free of corruption.
Civil society non-government organisations Corruption Watch (CW) and Right2Know (R2K) applied for a high court to review and set aside the findings of the Arms Procurement Commission under the leadership of Judge Willie Seriti. This was the second application to have the commission’s findings set aside. The first was lodged by long-time anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne and was dismissed.
A Corruption Watch statement has it that the joint application submitted early last year for a review means there “will at last be a public hearing in court” on the commission’s findings.
“This is a result of civil society’s determined pursuit of the matter, which has great significance for the future success and credibility of commissions in South Africa.
“The CW and R2K application argue the Seriti Commission failed miserably to conduct the most routine of investigations, arriving at the false conclusion there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal.
“This application will ensure those implicated in corrupt arms deal activities will no longer be able to claim they were exonerated by the commission and may even be required to have their own day in court to face the legal consequences of their actions,” the CW statement said.
The Seriti Commission was appointed by former President Jacob Zuma after Crawford-Browne threatened legal action if no further investigation into democratic South Africa’s acquisition of jet trainers and fighters, utility helicopters, frigates and submarines in 1999 was done as far as bribery and corruption were concerned.
The Seriti Commission sat in Pretoria from August 2012 to June 2015 and heard evidence from 54 people, including former president Thabo Mbeki. He was chair of the Cabinet committee which approved the R30 billion defence equipment acquisition. This grew to over R70 billion by the time 26 Gripen fighters, 24 Hawk Mk 120 jet trainers, 30 Agusta A109 helicopters, four Meko frigates and three Type 209 submarines plus four Super Lynx maritime helicopters were taken into service.
The cost of the Seriti Commission to the South African taxpayer was more than R137 million. This was supplied in answer to a Parliamentary question posed by then Democratic Alliance shadow finance minister David Maynier in May 2016.
The review will be heard in what CW says is the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division in Pretoria. It is also known as the North Gauteng High Court.