Arms deal: No corruption, fraud was proved, say lawyers

2015-06-29 16:55
Regter Willie Seriti

Regter Willie Seriti

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Johannesburg - The arms deal inquiry cannot make any finding of impropriety, irregularity, fraud or corruption by members of former president Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet, Advocate Marumo Moerane has told the commission. 

Marumo today also told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry that the same could be said for the interministerial committee that oversaw the multibillion-rand arms acquisition because no allegations had been proven through evidence. 

Moerane, who represented former president Thabo Mbeki, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, the late defence minister Joe Modise (and later Mosiuoa Lekota), public enterprises minister Stella Sigcau (later Jeff Radebe) and former trade and industry minister Alec Erwin at the two-year long inquiry, was making his final submission today, the last day of the commission. 

Moerane, who was accompanied by Mbeki’s lawyer and confidant Mojanku Gumbi, said the fact that many other investigations and courts in the country had not found any wrongdoing regarding the arms procurement process meant that the commission could not come to a different conclusion. 

Moerane said even allegations made by former Pan Africanist Congress leader Patricia de Lille, arms deal critic Dr Richard Young, and former chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and IFP MP Dr Gavin Woods could not shed any light on the statements they had made when given the opportunity to do so by the commission. 

“None of the witnesses who had made these allegations were able to support any of them with facts. In fact, De Lille, Young, Woods ... were among those who categorically stated that they had no factual evidence of wrongdoing on the part of any member of the [interministerial committee]. 

“We submit that, on a conspectus of all the admitted evidence, oral and documentary, it has been conclusively demonstrated that there was a sound and constitutionally compliant rationale for the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages and that [it] was affordable,” said Moerane. 

He said the commission, which was tasked by President Jacob Zuma to establish the “rationale” and affordability of the arms procurement, and also determine whether any person within or outside government improperly influenced the award or conclusion of any of the contracts, could not rule that the arms contracts be terminated because there was simply no evidence to do so. 

One of the commission’s terms of reference was to establish whether any of the contracts awarded in the defence procurement packages was “tainted by fraud or corruption capable of proof, such as to justify its cancellation, and the ramifications of such cancellation”. 

“We submit that there is absolutely no evidence that any person within or outside the government ... improperly influenced the award or conclusion of any of the [defence procurement packages] contracts. Hence, the question of their cancellation does not arise,” said Moerane. 

Asked by commission chair Judge Willie Seriti about his thoughts on allegations that the late Sigcau improperly benefited after allegations that her daughter was awarded a cushy job to ensure her mother approved the deal to supply South Africa with Hawk and Gripen jet fighters, Moerane said there was no evidence put before the commission that she influenced any awarding of contracts. 

“It doesn’t follow logic that she influenced an acquisition, particularly on an acquisition that went through so many hoops. I don’t think that conclusion can be arrived at. Even if there was such assistance, one has to establish that Ms Sigcau improperly influenced the [interministerial committee],” said Moerane. 

In the same vein, Fana Hlongwane, former adviser to Modise, refuted allegations of impropriety and corruption relating to him consulting for British arms company BAE soon after his contract as Modise’s adviser was terminated. 

Hlongwane, through his lawyer Jaap Cilliers, stated during cross-examination in December last year that he never bribed anyone for their influence during his consultation for BAE. 

Cilliers also criticised allegations against Hlongwane and the arms deal by critics he said were “unconvincing” because none of them provided hard evidence of impropriety to the commission. 

Despite being hauled over the coals for not producing any evidence, Young, in his final submission, did not give up on his allegation that the arms deal was “irregular and unlawful”. 

Advocate Matshego Ramagaga, one of three evidence leaders who probed the “rationale” for the arms deal, also submitted to the commission that the deal was a rational government undertaking. 

“We noted that some of the witnesses who have written extensively on the [defence procurement packages] process and its alleged irregularities despite having made written submissions to the commission declined an invitation to give oral evidence. 

“However, we submit that on the basis of available evidence both documentary and oral, there is no justification to make a finding that the [defence procurement packages] process was irrational,” said Ramagaga. 

More than R100 million was spent on the arms deal inquiry. Seriti said he was happy that the commission, which heard from 56 witnesses, had overcome criticism and numerous high-profile resignations. 

Seriti also talked about the commission’s trips overseas where it went in search of evidence, including a trip to the United Kingdom, where it spoke to prosecutors investigating BAE. 

Seriti said they had until December to provide Zuma with its findings and recommendations.

Read more on:    bae systems  |  willie seriti  |  centurion  |  arms deal

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