Retired banker and anti-arms-deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne may have suffered a setback after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application to set aside the Seriti Commission report but the battle is not over.
Crawford-Browne applied for direct access to the court, arguing that his efforts to set aside the report were for justice for the country and urged the court to take appropriate remedial actions.
The court’s decision means that he has exhausted local remedies to get the arms-deal saga resolved to his satisfaction.
“Having now exhausted local remedies, I have already engaged a highly reputed firm of foreign lawyers, who specialise in international corruption and fraud, and who are looking at alternative resolutions to this saga in the United States and other jurisdictions. A luta continua!” he said in response to his failed court bid.
He said the Seriti Commission investigation into the “arms deal” was discredited from inception. Judge Francis Legodi and the chief evidence leader, Advocate Tayob Aboobaker, and others resigned because of alleged mismanagement of the investigation by Judge Willie Seriti.
In particular, Norman Moabi resigned in January 2013 alleging that Seriti had a “second agenda to silence the Terry Crawford-Brownes of this world”.
The commission spent R137 million in a five-year inquiry that eventually found that there was no evidence relating to arms-deal corruption.
Crawford-Browne and other activists rejected the commission’s findings because it ignored the evidence that was the very cause of the commission’s creation, namely 460 boxes and 4.7 million computer pages against BAE. These were in two shipping containers was not scrutinised or even considered.
They also criticised the commission for blocking the examination of other evidence, including an estimated 17 000 pages of the International Offers Negotiating Team and Financial Working Group papers pertaining to the arms deal affordability study.
Activists also argued that the Financial Working Group papers compiled by the national treasury and international consultants had warned Cabinet in August 1999 that the arms deal would be a reckless proposition that would lead the government and country into mounting economic, fiscal and financial difficulties.
“Those consequences are now evident in our stagnant economy and social unrest,” Crawford-Browne said.
“When the Seriti Commission was appointed in 2011, I warned President [Jacob] Zuma not to attempt to repeat the stunt that former president Thabo Mbeki played in 2001 with the joint investigating team inquiry into the arms deal,” he said.
He said it was regrettable that the Constitutional Court dismissed his case because of the signals it sent to the international community.
This has also happened at a time when South Africa was facing a potential investment downgrading to junk status largely “due to the culture of corruption which the arms deal unleashed” and also compounded by the misconduct of President Zuma.