Seriti arms deal report can no longer be used as a defence by Zuma - former MP Andrew Feinstein

Jacob Zuma (File, Foto24)
Jacob Zuma (File, Foto24)

If the corruption case against former president Jacob Zuma proceeds to trial, he will no longer be able to use the arms deal commission of inquiry, which found that there was no evidence against him, as a defence.

This, after the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria set aside the commission's findings on Wednesday.

A full bench, which included Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, found that it was clear that the Seriti commission had manifestly failed to fully inquire and investigate the serious allegations before it.

READ | Arms Deal: Seriti inquiry findings set aside

The commission, which Zuma set up in 2011 and Judge Willie Seriti chaired, found no evidence of wrongdoing against Zuma, nor in the deal, in which the government entered into multibillion-rand military acquisition contracts with European defence companies.

The contracts were finalised in 1999.

Serious charges

Despite this, Zuma faces serious charges, including one count of racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud, relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial arms deal.

Arms company Thales has also been charged.

In May this year, Zuma applied for a permanent stay of prosecution. Judgment in that application has not yet been handed down by the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.

Former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, who raised the issue of the arms deal in Parliament and consistently said the Seriti commission was flawed, believes the judgment on Thursday paves the way for the successful prosecution of Zuma.

"This judgment has consequences for Jacob Zuma and all those implicated in the arms deal," Feinstein told News24.

"The significance of this decision is that Jacob Zuma and Thales will not be able to use the report of the Seriti commission when they go on trial."

Following the judgment, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must also investigate and charge all the others involved in corruption in the deal, including prominent South Africans and international arms companies BAE Systems, Thyssen Krupp, Ferrostaal, Thales and Saab, Feinstein added.

Feinstein also said the judgment was an important legal moment as South Africa attempts to recover from state capture. He added that the arms deal was the first documented instance of state capture.

He applauded the Right2Know Campaign and Corruption Watch SA for lodging the application, as well as the judiciary, who he said showed their integrity and independence in delivering the judgment.

As for Feinstein's war against the arms deal, he said the entire saga would reach full circle when he gave evidence against Zuma, and whether the former president was convicted.

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