No surprise as Seriti gives arms deal a clean bill of health

22 April 2016 - 02:20 By The Times Editorial

It came as no surprise that Mr Justice Willie Seriti's commission of inquiry found no wrong in the arms deal procurement process. It was even less surprising that those prominent figures on the political landscape who had been implicated in the multibillion-rand scandal celebrated the findings yesterday and declared that accusations against them had been based on lies and newspaper innuendo.Releasing the Seriti report, President Jacob Zuma said no "iota" of evidence had been found to suggest the arms deal was corrupt.There was nothing "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 members of the government.We should remember that the Seriti commission cost taxpayers more than R10-million and Zuma was one of those accused of having unduly benefited from the arms deal. His financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was jailed for proven corruption related to the arms deal.The question must be asked: Could Seriti have arrived at a conclusion at variance with Zuma's desires?The original arms deal whistleblower, now Cape Town mayor, Patrcia de Lille, said the Seriti findings were entirely predictable.In 1999 De Lille called for a full investigation after allegations that senior ANC members had received kickbacks from the deal. Yesterday she described the Seriti Commission as "a farce" and a waste of time and money. She said it had been designed to protect Zuma.In 2009, Zuma was inaugurated as president of South Africa with criminal charges hanging over him. Seven years later, those charges still hover.It is important to reflect on this tumultuous episode in our history and how our politics was swept up by winds swirling through the dark corners of the arms industry. If we failed to learn anything from the sorry saga we should not be surprised by ever more allegations of corruption and state capture.

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