Crawford-Browne withdraws “arms deal” case


Retired banker and anti-arms activist Terry Crawford-Browne has withdrawn his application in the Constitutional Court to compel an inquiry into the 1999 Strategic Defence Package (SDP) on his terms.

“The applicant is granted leave to withdraw,” Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said. President Jacob Zuma announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the so-called “arms deal” in September, largely, it was reported at the time to avoid the courts setting the terms of reference. The SDP has been dogged by allegations of corruption and bribery almost from the start.

Crawford-Browne at the time welcomed the inquiry but said much depended on the people appointed and their terms of reference. Last month, after Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe announced the latter, Crawford-Browne said he would pursue his Constitutional Court case – set down for today – because he was not happy with the terms of reference.

Radebe told a press briefing in Cape Town: “The establishment of this commission and the commencement of its work represent a watershed moment in the history of democratic South Africa, in a quest to rid our nation of what has become an albatross that must now cease to blemish the reputation of our government and the image of our country.”

But the ex-banker said it would be up to the Constitutional Court to determine whether the terms of reference for the commission mustered. “No, I am not dropping the court case. I’m not happy with the terms of reference. It’s not for me to take that decision. It is for Constitutional Court to determine whether terms can muster… and they don’t.” He added he also had a serious problem with sitting judges running the inquiry as they could act as prosecutor and judge and, as a result, could have their findings challenged. “We could end up with two years of commission, R40 million spent, and a meaningless inquiry.”

Lawyers for Crawford-Browne later told the court the matters had been addressed and as a result the case could be withdrawn. The parties also agreed to a court order that the state pay the costs of two counsel for Crawford-Browne for their services until Thursday. It would also pay the party-to-party costs of the friend of the court – the SA Institute of Race Relations. This was to include costs of two counsel, costs wasted when the matter was postponed on May 5 and the costs in all interlocutory applications filed on record in the matter in which the friend of the court was involved.