Crawford-Browne repeats call for Seriti Commission to be disbanded


Terry Crawford-Browne, the man whose persistence led to the establishment of the Arms Deal commission, aka the Arms Procurement Commission, has again called for its termination.

“Although I publicly declared more than a year ago the Commission had degenerated into a farce, I decided to subject myself during four days of October to the charade and abuse so the South African public could gain at least some insights into why the arms deal procurement process was criminal, unconstitutional and fraudulent,” he said in a statement this week.
“Supported by a legal opinion by Advocate Geoff Budlender SC, I carefully structured my submission and testimony on the Commission’s six terms of reference: the rationale; whether the equipment is used or under-used; the job opportunities; the offset benefits; improper influences; and ramifications of cancellation.
“Under pressure from European governments and their arms companies, our government was complicit in the absurdity that R30 billion spent on armaments would generate R110 billion in offsets to create 65 000 jobs and stimulate economic development.
“Under President Thabo Mbeki, the Cabinet and ANC then embarked upon a massive cover-up of the scandal and have systematically destroyed the checks and balances so carefully crafted into South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution. Advocate Marumo Moerane SC, who represents Mbeki, Trevor Manuel and Jackie Sedibe (widow of former defence minister Joe Modise), predictably declared my testimony should be dismissed as mere hearsay and rumour!
“A one hour television documentary broadcast last week in Sweden now highlights the Swedish government’s manipulation of Swedish support for the anti-apartheid struggle to promote exports of the BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft. The Swedes were desperate to find export markets for the Gripen and South Africa was little more than a guinea pig.
“The Swedish government even stepped up the pressure after recommendations to the Cabinet sub-committee in May 1999 that the Gripen project should be scrapped, or at least deferred.
“At a time when hundreds of thousands of South Africans were dying prematurely of Aids-related causes, two medically discredited BAE/Saab offset projects were promoted as miracle cures for HIV/Aids. The programme Dokument Inifrän describes the Hivex study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which claimed to neutralise the HI virus with electromagnetic radiation. Fana Hlongwane was a director of this project, which was only discontinued as recently as 2012.
“Elsewhere in the programme, the former director general of the Department of Trade and Industry, Lionel October declares: ‘I think South Africa was naïve and was not clear about its objectives in this programme. So the offset was badly structured and it was really dominated by the global defence industry and major multi-nationals rather than being driven by South Africa’s defence industry. The bulk of projects were not in core industries and were seriously flawed and not sustainable. That is the real weakness of the programme’.
“Jobs were counted that did not exist. In the scramble to accumulate offset credits there was no concern whether a project was economically viable. October confirms BAE/Saab could simply say they would create jobs and they would receive credits irrespective of whether any jobs actually materialised. Earlier this year October told the Commission the offset programme was ‘the best tool we had at the time’.
“His current description of the offset debacle as ‘naïve’ remains a gross understatement. A criminal and fraudulent confidence trick played at enormous cost to the people of South Africa is a more appropriate description. As early as June 1999 the Swedish newspaper Finanstidningen quoted Saab’s vice president for communications as saying: ‘The South Africans don’t understand their own model. There is a great intellectual problem. Those who decide cannot follow in the maze of figures’.
“The Cabinet sub-committee headed by then Deputy President Mbeki, and comprising ministers Alec Erwin, Manuel, the late Modise and the late Stella Siqcau bear responsibility for the arms deal debacle and should be held accountable both collectively and individually for the criminal fiasco that ensued. Promoted by the armaments industry as a means towards weapons proliferation, offsets are a fraudulent and discredited practice that violate both the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act. Offsets should be totally prohibited in any country that professes to be concerned about corruption.”

Crawford-Browne maintains his testimony to the Commission noted South Africa did not receive the benchmark R110 billion in promised offsets; equipment acquired is under-utilised or not utilised at all; promised jobs did not materialise and neither did offset benefits.
“The internationally accepted remedy for fraud is to cancel the contracts, return the goods and recover the money. The arms deal contracts are guaranteed by European government export credit agencies who should therefore suffer the financial consequences, not South Africans,” he said.
“Plainly, the arms deal acquisitions were bought for the bribes rather than any rational defence requirement. South Africans have been the victims of an estimated R70 billion fraud perpetrated by European arms companies with collusion of both their governments and ours. There is little prospect the Commission will redeem itself by recommending to President Zuma that the arms deal contracts should be cancelled as unconstitutional and fraudulent.
“Accordingly and having more than a year ago declared the Commission is a farce and, per Norman Moabi’s description, part of a ‘second agenda to silence the Terry Crawford-Brownes of this world’ I now reiterate that the Commission should be terminated when its current mandate expires in November 2014,” his statement ends.