Minimal submissions to arms deal enquiry as Zuma gets update


President Jacob Zuma has received an update from a commission of inquiry into the arms deal, commonly known as the arms procurement commission, which had only received seven submissions by the time of the submissions deadline on Monday.

Submissions include those from Terry Crawford-Browne, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and Paul Holden, who has written about the Strategic Defence Procurement Package, aka the ‘arms deal’. “We expected we would have a flurry of submissions. There are less than 10,” said William Baloyi, the spokesman for the commission.

Defence contractor Richard Young, whose affidavit formed part of Crawford-Browne’s bid to have the arms deal examined, has not forwarded a submission. Instead he has opted to be subpoenaed, as Judge Willie Seriti’s commission does not necessarily provide for the release of a final report, according to the Financial Mail, “which means I could spend six months giving evidence, naming parties, and it could never come out,” he said. His other concerns were that there was no legal protection for people giving evidence and Zuma may decide whether or not the report is made public.

Under the regulations which govern the commission, any document submitted or destined to be submitted cannot be made public without the written permission of Seriti, and that the failure to adhere to this regulation would result in a fine or imprisonment for up to six months, the Financial Mail reports.

The commission said the time for public submissions on its terms of reference had expired. “The public submissions to the commission are now closed. However, the chairperson has discretion to consider submissions made after the closing date,” Baloyi said.

Zuma established the commission in September last year to investigate allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the 1999 arms acquisition process. “The president expresses his full confidence and support for the commission in its work and underscores the integrity and independence attached to the commission and its work,” Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement yesterday. “The commission is progressing well and must be allowed to complete its mandate unhindered by any preconceived or prescribed outcomes.”
“The update [to Zuma] was given in line with the terms of reference within which the commission is to conduct its work,” Maharaj said.

The SA Press Association reports the commission has to submit interim reports and recommendations to the president from time to time, and at least every six months prior to the finalisation of its report.

The commission was now starting the second phase of its work, which was to analyse the submissions and documentation it had received from government departments, chapter nine institutions, private entities, and interested parties, SAPA added. From the submissions and documentation, the commission would identify issues that needed to be further probed, and conduct the necessary private investigations, both internally and outside of South Africa. In June Seriti and a team of investigators visited Germany and the United Kingdom regarding the inquiry.
“It will interview potential witnesses and compile a list of witnesses. In short, the commission will be laying the ground work for the public hearings, a process that is expected to run until the end of the year. It is anticipated that the public hearings will start in the first quarter of 2013,” Baloyi said.

South Africa in 1998 announced that it was to acquire frigates, submarines, helicopters and fighters from a number of European suppliers to rejuvenate the prime mission equipment of the South African Navy and Air Force. Preferred bidders were announced at the Defence Exhibition SA in September that year. Negotiations followed with deals signed in December 1999. The contracts, worth some R30 billion at the time, became effective on April 1, 2000. Then-minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu in June last year said the cost of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDP) had grown to R42 362 053 814.

The deals would see South Africa gain four sophisticated German-built Meko A200SAN frigates, three state-of-the-art Type 209 MOD1400 submarines (also German-built), 26 Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, 24 British-built BAE Systems Hawk Mk 120 fighter trainers and 30 Italian-built AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters. All of these, except for the last few Gripen have now been delivered and paid for.

In June last year, Swedish defence multinational SAAB announced its former partner BAE Systems had paid a South African facilitator, Fana Hlongwane, R24 million to help secure the Gripen contract. The Swedish company adds that news of the payment was hidden from it by its partner in the deal.

The British defence giant last year reached an agreement with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations that it failed to provide accurate records in connection with the supply of an air-traffic control system to Tanzania. It admitted the charge and agreed to pay a penalty of £30 million, while the SFO waived its right to investigate other allegations, including those relating to South Africa. BAE Systems in June 2011 sold the last of its shares in Saab.

In August the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Ferrostaal, part of the German Submarine Consortium, had made R300 million in “questionable” payments to secure its SA contract. Themba Godi, the chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) said the development was startling, given the fact that the Hawks had closed the German arm of the investigation, citing a lack of evidence. “These revelations do indicate that unless this matter is thoroughly investigated, we will continue to have information coming to the public that shows us that maybe our anti-corruption agencies have not been doing their work.”