Seriti inquiry failed to question Mbeki over ‘intimate’ arms deal dinner, rights groups say in court
Corruption Watch and Right2Know have filed a supplementary affidavit based on the incomplete record of decision-making of the 2016 commission
The Seriti commission, which exonerated top politicians, including former president Thabo Mbeki, of corruption in the multibillion-rand arms deal, misled the public and failed to uphold its mandate to investigate the claims of malfeasance it was aware of, according to Corruption Watch and Right2Know.
On Thursday both filed a supplementary affidavit in the High Court in Pretoria in their bid to review and set aside Judge Willie Seriti’s 2016 findings which found that there was no corruption involved in the deal.
Corruption Watch’s David Lewis said he believes that based on the commission’s incomplete record of its decision, it would be sufficient to review and set aside the findings.
The two organisations say the documents they received revealed that the commission had hidden evidence of corruption; and that by failing to access information abroad, it made no attempt to investigate serious allegations of corruption put before it; and that the commission failed to investigate new allegations that have come to light.
In the affidavit, Corruption Watch and Right2Know say that the record showed that the commission had, for example, been given documents that included correspondence between the Scorpions and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office containing evidence related to Mbeki and former Armscor director Seth Phalatse.
The UK authority told the Scorpions that it had information about an “intimate dinner” Mbeki had with Phalatse, Diliza Mji, Richard Charter and Niall Irving, who were all linked to British arms giant BAE Systems, which was accused of having paid “commissions” to South African “agents” and “consultants” linked to the ANC.
Lewis said the allegation that Mbeki had an intimate dinner with those specific role players was “very material” to the work of the commission. He said a “reasonable enquirer” would have wanted to have known why Mbeki was dining with these people, given the timing and his position in 1998. Mbeki was deputy president of the country as well as the head of the inter-ministerial subcommittee which oversaw the selection process of the strategic defence procurement packages.
Lewis said Mbeki was not asked about the dinner by the commission, despite having the evidence, while Mji, Irving and Phalatse were not called to give evidence at all.
Asked for comment, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation said Mbeki was out of the country, and "has neither seen nor read the submissions and is therefore unable to comment at this stage".
The commission of inquiry into the arms deal was appointed by former president Jacob Zuma in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in SA's multibillion-rand arms procurement deal in 1999. Mbeki was president at the time and Zuma his deputy.