Judge Willie Seriti chaired the 2016 commission of inquiry into the arms deal. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Judge Willie Seriti chaired the 2016 commission of inquiry into the arms deal. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

The Seriti commission failed in investigating the infamous arms deal. That is what non-profit organisations Right2Know and Corruption Watch said on Thursday after filing “damning new evidence” at the Pretoria High Court.

Corruption Watch head of legal and investigations Leanne Govindsamy said: “Never has it been more important to expose the flawed and inadequate processes followed by the Seriti commission‚ and the way that key information was ignored‚ so as to arrive at the conclusion that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal.”

In a joint statement‚ the organisations said their supplementary affidavits alleged that the commission lied to the public and hid evidence of corruption by failing to access information abroad;  made no attempt to investigate serious allegations of corruption put before it; and failed to investigate new allegations that have come to light.

TimesLIVE reported in 2012 that SA bought four frigates‚ three submarines‚ helicopters‚ jet training aircraft and Gripen fighter jets in a strategic defence procurement process that‚ in 1999‚ came with an estimated price tag of R30bn. This figure has since ballooned to an estimated R70bn‚ taking financing costs into account.

Right2Know and Corruption Watch first filed their application on October 17 2016 but said on Thursday that this process had been hampered by the “state attorney’s numerous delays in filing the documents that led the commission under judge Willie Seriti to conclude that there was no evidence of corruption in the arms deal”.

They filed supplementary affidavits on Thursday.

“The record relates to letters‚ memorandums‚ reports‚ minutes and other material that was before the Seriti commission‚ upon which its findings were based‚ and which have never previously been released to the public.”

The two organisations claim it contains the following previously undisclosed information:

  • Evidence that Thabo Mbeki‚ Seth Phalatse‚ Richard Charter and Niall Irving had an “intimate dinner’’ in 1998‚ during the arms deal selection process.
  • Mbeki was the head of the cabinet sub-committee tasked with the selection process‚ Phalatse was at Armscor‚ and the others were agents and employees of BAE Systems.
  • Information on how the commission was advised that Phalatse paid bribes to Sipho Zikode‚ an official at the department of trade and industry‚ in order to secure “offset credits” for a BAE Systems project.

“It is of particular concern that, in addition to not investigating these matters‚ the commission also lied to and misled the public about other key aspects of the arms deal,” the organisations say.

They welcomed the prosecution of French arms manufacturer Thales and former president Jacob Zuma for their alleged corrupt relationship in the arms deal. “However‚ there is [a] long list of global corporations and politicians who are equally deserving of investigation and prosecution.”

Zuma was linked to the deal through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was jailed for corruption. This almost torpedoed Zuma’s bid for president but all charges against him were dropped in 2009.