South Africa: Arms Deal - Seriti Inquiry Findings Set Aside

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has set aside the findings of the arms deal commission of inquiry, with costs.

In handing down judgment on Wednesday, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said that it is clear that the commission failed to inquire fully into the matters that it had to investigate.

"The questions posed to the witnesses were hardly the questions of an evidence leader seeking to determine the truth," Mlambo said.

No attempt was made to confront controversial businessman Fana Hlongwane's witness statement, which, Mlambo said, left out key information concerning payments made to him.

Mlambo said the court is fortified in their view that the inquiry the commission was called upon to undertake "never materialised".He said a key failure to test evidence of important witnesses, and a refusal to take account of documentary evidence which contains the most serious allegations that were important to the inquiry, means the findings of the Seriti commission must be set aside.

The commission, set up in 2011 by former president Jacob Zuma and chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, found no evidence of corruption in the deal, in which the SA government entered into contracts with several European defence companies in 1999.

South Africa bought sophisticated military equipment to the tune of R30bn.

The commission did not hold anyone accountable, finding that there was no undue influence in the selection of bidders.

At the time, Zuma said the commission also found that there was no evidence of bribery or corruption in the arms procurement process - particularly in the selection of bidders and costs.

Zuma claimed: "The commission states that not a single iota of evidence was placed before it, showing that any of the money received by any of the consultants was paid to any officials involved in the strategic defence procurement package, let alone any of the members of the inter-ministerial committee that oversaw the process, or any member of the Cabinet that took the final decisions, nor is there any circumstantial evidence pointing to this," News24 previously reported.

Former president Thabo Mbeki and former ministers Trevor Manuel, Alec Erwin, Mosiuoa Lekota and Ronnie Kasrils were some of the witnesses who testified at the commission.

The commission noted that, except for the Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) programme, the inter-ministerial committee had accepted the results of the evaluations produced by the technical teams and recommended to Cabinet, and the preferred bidders identified by the technical evaluations.

Reasons were given for deviations in decisions.

The commission also found that the arms deal was indeed needed by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and was well utilised.

Source: News24

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