Arms deal: ‘Damning new evidence’ filed in high court

11 October 2018 - 18:15 By Nico Gous
Right2Know and Corruption Watch first filed their application on October 17 2016
Right2Know and Corruption Watch first filed their application on October 17 2016
Image: 123RF/Stockstudio44

The Seriti Commission failed in investigating the infamous arms deal.

That is what non-profit organisations Right2Know (R2K) and Corruption Watch said on Thursday after filing “damning new evidence” at the Pretoria High Court.

Corruption Watch head of legal and investigations Leanne Govindsamy said: “Never has it been more important to expose the flawed and inadequate processes followed by the Seriti Commission‚ and the way that key information was ignored‚ so as to arrive at the conclusion that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal.”

In a joint statement‚ the organisations said their supplementary affidavits alleged the following:

  • The commission lied to the public and hid evidence of corruption;
  • By failing to access information abroad‚ the commission made no attempt to investigate serious allegations of corruption put before it; and
  • The commission failed to investigate new allegations that have come to light.

TimesLIVE reported in 2012 that South Africa bought four frigates‚ three submarines‚ helicopters‚ jet training aircraft and Gripen fighter jets in a Strategic Defence Procurement Process that‚ in 1999‚ came with an estimated price tag of R30-billion. That figure has since ballooned to an estimated R70-billion‚ taking financing costs into account.

Right2Know and Corruption Watch first filed their application on October 17 2016 but said on Thursday this had been hampered by the “state attorney’s numerous delays in filing the documents that led the commission under Judge Willie Seriti to conclude that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal”.

They filed supplementary affidavits on Thursday.

“The record relates to letters‚ memoranda‚ reports‚ minutes and other material that was before the Seriti Commission‚ upon which its findings were based‚ and which have never previously been released to the public.”

They claim it contains the following previously undisclosed information:

  • Evidence that former president Thabo Mbeki‚ Seth Phalatse‚ Richard Charter and Niall Irving had an “intimate dinner’’ in 1998‚ during the arms deal selection process. Mbeki was the head of the Cabinet sub-committee tasked with the selection process‚ Phalatse was at Armscor‚ and the others were agents and employees of BAE Systems; and
  • Information on how the commission was advised that Seth Phalatse paid bribes to Sipho Zikode‚ an official at the Department of Trade and Industry‚ in order to secure “offset credits” for a BAE Systems project.

“It is of particular concern that in addition to not investigating these matters‚ the commission also lied to and misled the public about other key aspects of the arms deal.”

The two organisations welcomed the prosecution of French arms manufacturer Thales and former president Jacob Zuma for their alleged corrupt relationship in the arms deal.

“However‚ there is [a] long list of global corporations and politicians who are equally deserving of investigation and prosecution.”

Zuma was linked to the deal through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik who was jailed for corruption. This almost torpedoed Zuma’s bid for president but all charges against him were dropped in 2009.

The timeline of the arms deal: 

  • June 1997 - The cabinet approves the defence review‚ and two months later so does parliament. Later that year then deputy president Thabo Mbeki opens the tender process for arms‚ at an estimated cost of R12-billion. French company Thales wins a R2.6-billion contract to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites;
  • March 1998 - ANC MP Tony Yengeni visits one of the bidders DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in Brazil. He later gets a new green Mercedes-Benz M-Series 4x4 for half the price via a DaimlerChrysler Aerospace official. BAe‚ another bidder‚ donates R4.5-million to the MK Military Veterans Association;
  • November 1998 - The cabinet approves the arms deal‚ which now carries a R30-billion price tag. That day‚ Jacob Zuma‚ Schabir Shaik and Thales meet‚ according to information that emerged later in the Shaik trial;
  • November 1999 - PAC MP Patricia de Lille hands the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) a dossier from “concerned MPs” about extensive corruption in the arms deal;- June 1999 - Thabo Mbeki is elected president of South Africa and Zuma as his deputy;
  • December 1999 - Defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota signs the arms deal‚ for which finance minister Trevor Manuel signed loans totalling R30-billion;
  • February 2000 - The Office for Serious Economic Offences — later to be known as the Scorpions — says it is probing the arms deal;- March 2000 - Zuma‚ Shaik and Alain Thetard‚ of Thales‚ allegedly meet to discuss paying Zuma R500‚000 a year in return for protection against a probe into the company. This emerged during the Shaik trial;- 2000 - Parliamentary watchdog Scopa launches a probe into the arms deal‚ which leads to information that it cost R43.8-billion. Mbeki and ANC ministers blame inflation for the increase;
  • - October 2001 - Yengeni is arrested for perjury‚ fraud and forgery related to the arms deal. He is later convicted of fraud and serves four months of his four-year sentence;- October 2004 - The Schabir Shaik trial begins;
  • June 2005 - Shaik is found guilty and sentenced to 15 years. Zuma is formally indicted on two charges of corruption and fired as deputy president;
  • April 2006 - Thales allegedly gives ANC treasurer Mendi Msimang a cheque for €1-million to be paid from a secret Dubai account into an “ANC-aligned trust” shortly before the company is due to stand trial for corruption with Zuma;
  • September 2006 - Zuma’s corruption case is scrapped;
  • 2007 - Thales gets a R100-million electronic ticketing system contract for the Gautrain. State prosecutors reinstate corruption charges against Zuma;
  • 2009 - Thales is awarded a R95-million air traffic control maintenance contract that did not go out to tender;
  • March 2009 - Shaik is released on medical parole‚ two years and four months into his 15-year prison sentence;
  • April 2009 - Charges against Zuma and Thint — Thales’s SA arm — are controversially withdrawn by prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe‚ who cites evidence of political interference contained in the so-called spy tapes;
  • 2010 - Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne asks the Constitutional Court to get Zuma to launch a commission of inquiry into the arms deal;
  • 2008-2013 - Media reports‚ local and foreign‚ probe alleged corrupt dealings that British‚ Swedish and German companies had in their arms deals globally‚ including in South Africa;
  • - 2011 - Zuma appoints a commission of inquiry‚ headed by Judge Willie Seriti;- 2013 - Thales clinches a R1.87-billion rail signalling contract in the Western Cape;
  • April 2016 - Zuma releases the findings of the Seriti commission‚ saying it did not find an “iota” of evidence that the arms deal was flawed or corrupt. The investigation is widely slammed as a whitewash; and
  • October 2016 - Corruption Watch and the Right2Know Campaign launch a legal challenge in the Pretoria High Court to have the findings of the Seriti commission set aside.- October 2018 – Corruption Watch and Right2Know Campaign file “damning new evidence” as part of their case.

- Sunday Times

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