Saturday sees the start of another investigation into the multi-billion Rand Strategic Defence Procurement Packages that saw the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) acquire new, high-tech equipment for its airborne and maritime services in the late nineties.
The first hearings of the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa open on February 3 at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill and will examine “the continuities between apartheid era economic crime, the post-apartheid arms deal and contemporary state capture,” a statement issued by the tribunal said.
The first hearings will focus on the arms trade over the past 40 years. These, the tribunal’s Michael Marchant said, contributed to the loss of thousands of lives during the apartheid era.
“The 1999 arms deal significantly weakened our democracy with little accountability and more recently State-owned Denel is an important example of state capture,” he said.
The tribunal will join the dots between corruption past and present focussing on detailed evidence, public submissions and testimony by 15 witnesses and whistleblowers. Additionally more than 12 civil society organisations will provide testimony on the impact of corruption and inequality on the lives of South Africans.
Evidence will be led before a panel of six adjudicators including Zak Yacoob, Navi Pillay, Dinga Sikwebu, Mandisa Dyantyi, Yasmin Sooka and Allyson Maynard Gibson. Their findings will be recorded in a final report that will be the basis for the next steps in the struggle for accountability.
The tribunal’s organising committee comprises a range of civil society organisations, including Corruption Watch, the Foundation for Human Rights, Open Secrets, Public Affairs Research Institute and the Right2Know Campaign.
Marchant sees the tribunal as one way for citizens to take action to collecting, discussing and publicising evidence that can then be used to hold those responsible to account. This includes powerful individuals, international corporations and politicians.
The first round of submissions will last until Wednesday, February 7.