ARMS DEAL CRITICS LABEL SERITI COMMISSION A ‘WHITEWASH’

ARMS DEAL CRITICS LABEL SERITI COMMISSION A ‘WHITEWASH’

As the controversial arms deal’s original whistle-blower, Patricia de Lille, called for President Jacob Zuma’s head yesterday, other critics of the R70 billion defence procurement programme said the nearly 17-year-long saga had not reached its end. 

The findings of the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal, led by Judge Willie Seriti, were overwhelmingly described as a “whitewash.” 

But arms deal critics said they were not about to give up their fight. 

Former ANC MP and author Andrew Feinstein, arms deal book author Paul Holden and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s senior research associate, Hennie van Vuuren, said an announcement on further legal steps was imminent. 

“We are seeking legal advice as to the legality of the commission’s conduct and the viability of a legal review to have the report set aside.” They said in a joint statement. Critics said convictions against ANC MP Tony Yengeni and Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, proved that all was not above board. 

Zuma himself faced more than 700 criminal charges, many of them related to the arms deal. Yesterday, the Presidency announced that Zuma would be releasing the findings of the commission and making the three-volume report public. 

In a televised statement, Zuma revealed that the commission had found no evidence of fraud, corruption or bribery. The equipment bought had been “well-utilised” and anticipated offsets had “substantially materialised,” he said. 

The commission said its own independent investigations had not found any evidence of irregularities either and that there had been no improper influence in the selection of preferred bidders who entered into contracts with the government. 

De Lille, who in September 1999 handed her controversial dossier to Parliament while still a PAC MP, said the commission had been “an utter and total waste of time and taxpayers’ money.” The findings were designed to “protect” Zuma, she said. 

The Seriti Commission’s findings were designed to prove that former president Thabo Mbeki was not justified to fire Zuma while his comrade in arms, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty and sent to prison.” 

De Lille said she still had faith in the judiciary to decide on whether corruption charges against Zuma should be reinstated. “We all knew from the beginning that this commission was a whitewash. President Zuma must go now. This is just one of the many clouds hanging over his head,” she said. 

Zuma said the commission had also not found “a single iota of evidence” that money received by consultants was paid to officials, or to the interministerial committee. “Large payments made to consultants gave an impression that the money may have been destined to decision-makers in the arms procurement process and that they may have been bribed,” he said. 

Where the cabinet deviated from the procurement programme, they had given full reasons for the “strategic decision”, and there had been no “criminal shenanigans.” 

Speaking to eNCA, anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne, who approached the Constitutional Court to compel Zuma to order a commission of inquiry, said the process had been a “whitewash” and a “farce.” 

He said the outcome was to be expected given the exclusion of over 400 boxes of documents. “The documentation was unbelievably mismanaged,” he claimed. 

The matter could still be taken back to the Concourt, or even an international court, he said. “It is far too an important issue to let go,” he added. 

Reference: 

Lindsay Dentlinger – Metro Writer (Cape Argus)