Arms deal commission has subpoena powers

2011-10-27 14:39

Cape Town - The commission of inquiry into the arms deal will have the power to subpoena anyone and recommend legal action against people who improperly influenced contracts, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.

"They will have the power to subpoena anybody, including members of the executive," the minister said as he announced the body's terms of reference in Cape Town.

Radebe said the three-member commission, chaired by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Willie Seriti, would also have powers of search and seizure, would hold public hearings and would be able to compel witnesses to answer questions.

Failure to co-operate with the commission would be an offence punishable with a fine or up to a year in prison.

The commission would complete its work within two years.

Final report

It would submit a final report to the president with recommendations on whether legal proceedings should be instituted against anyone, contracts should be cancelled or financial losses to the state recovered.

The terms of reference state that the commission would consider whether any part of the arms deal was "tainted by any fraud or corruption capable of proof" that justifies its cancellation.

Radebe said the mere fact that President Jacob Zuma instituted the commission indicated that he would take its recommendations seriously.

The final report would be made public, he said, though interim reports submitted to the president every six months would not necessarily be released.

The commission's scope of inquiry included the off-set deals linked to the state's arms buying spree in the late 1990s.

It would look into whether job creation and other benefits from those deals materialised.

Radebe said the commission would have a budget of R40m to conduct its work and would be seated in Johannesburg.

Deputy Judge President of the North Gauteng High Court, Willem van der Merwe, and Judge Francis Legodi of the same court, are the other two members of the commission.

Radebe said the judges would be assisted by three advocates - Vas Soni, Sthembiso Mdladla and Mahlape Sello. They were handpicked by Seriti.

'Watershed moment'

The minister described Zuma's decision to appoint the commission as a watershed moment in South Africa's history.

The commission would work independently to probe persistent allegations of corruption in the multi-billion-rand arms deal.

"The establishment of this commission and the commencement of its work, represent a watershed moment in the history of democratic South Africa, in a quest to rid our nation of what has become an albatross that must now cease to blemish the reputation of our government and the image of our country," Radebe said.

"As we cross the arms deal Rubicon, we wish to assure all South Africans that this commission will work independently of everyone, including the executive."

Arms deal opponent Terry Crawford Browne welcomed the powers of subpoena given to the commission.

"It certainly indicates that the president is serious, which is a fantastic step forward," he told reporters.

Crawford-Browne said the president's response to his criticism of appointing sitting rather than retired judges would determine whether he would drop his court case, widely believed to have forced Zuma to appoint the commission.

  • Peter - 2011-10-27 14:55

    If we think the whole commission will nail Zuma, then we are doomed!!! This is an exercise to silence the masses for now until he completes his term as President. Two years investigation is enough for him to cover his flaws.

      Right - 2011-10-27 15:09

      The truth of the matter is that other individuals who have not as yet been fingered acquired far more from arms deal. eg. it has recently come to light that the Chairperson of a major bank was heavily involved in influencing the contract. Let them expose the complete rot once and for all. It should be remembered that the Arms Deal was actually under a different administration and individuals close to that administration may have benefitted enormously. President Zuma/Shaik within the overall deal may have just been fall guys with the real kingpins having excluded scrutiny thus far.

  • James - 2011-10-27 15:18

    One better than the UK, Germany and Sweden. All the afore mentioned had evidence of corruption in their countries/goverment as regards the paying of bribes but swept it under the carpet. Takes an african country to show them how to do it. ViVa AfriKa ViVa

      Right - 2011-10-27 15:42

      The Arms industry in those countries including France is protected by their Government. Even when companies and individuals are figured for corruption and bribes they will be protected by those European countries; as is the norm there. They are just as corrupt as any other country in Africa.

      Linds - 2011-10-27 16:11

      In fact bribery was legal in Germany until recently! Many defence analysts will tell you that all arms deals in the world are ladden with corruption.

      Brian - 2011-10-27 16:24

      Whoa there Tonto! We haven't done it yet. Let's wait and see what action will be taken after the commission submit's it's findings. In any case we may have a new pressi by then (not that this should matter).

  • Andre - 2011-10-27 15:34

    Too good to be true.

  • Rob - 2011-10-27 16:00

    The entire motivation of the arms deal was party funding. Why else would we spend so much money for so little value? This commission was forced on Zuma. How can he manage this so that firstly he stays out of jail and secondly that the party stays solvent? By carefully limiting the scope of the investigation, is the answer to the first part. The commission will investigate whether "any part of the arms deal was tainted by any fraud or corruption". Zuma was apparently bribed for his role in the cover-up, not in actual awarding of the contracts. He didn't have much authority up till 1999 when the deal was signed and he was not bribed for playing any role in the actual awarding of the contracts. It was some years after the deal was signed that he apparently received money from Thales via Shaik for halting the SCOPA investigation into arms deal corruption. The allegation is that he was only bribed for his role in the cover-up and this will not be considered to be part of the arms deal but only part of the subsequent investigations into the arms deal and hence beyond the terms of reference for this commission. The second question concerns letting the ANC be exposed to the huge financial risk of having to pay about two billion Rand back to the state. Well, they can easily afford it if they have a suitable alternative source of funding. Watch that trillion Rand nuclear tender! Why else would we spend so much money for so little value?

  • djmain1 - 2011-10-27 16:01

    The real (and unsung) hero in this while episode is Terry Crawford Browne - without his doggedness, Zuma would NEVER have made this move. Thank you Terry - you have kept this travesty on the agenda and now we are seeing results for all your hard work and sacrifices. Just an aside (being the conspiracy theorist that I am) - is it possible that maybe Malema threatened to reveal some info RE the arms deal and Zuma pre-empted him by calling for this commission of enquiry? That would have taken all his ammo away. Just a thought.

      djmain1 - 2011-10-27 16:03


  • mmoledis - 2011-10-27 17:47

    Well done ruling party and lastly head of the state president Jacob Zuma for fighting corruption, it starts like that from up to bottom so as this has started then the lower echelons will start to put their tails under and stop being corrupt knowing that the tornado is on the way cleaning corruption, I hope and think that president can also have corruption watch dog in municipalities and once spotted then heads be rolled people account for that and if found guilty by law then go straight to jail, from mayors till to the last person in power,local councillors of wards.

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