Judge Hendrick Musi (left) and Chair Judge Willie Seriti at the Seriti commission of inquiry into the arms deal at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria in 2013. Picture: THE TIMES
Judge Hendrick Musi (left) and Chair Judge Willie Seriti at the Seriti commission of inquiry into the arms deal at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria in 2013. Picture: THE TIMES

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office has denied that he believes the arms deal inquiry did not do its work properly — and has stressed that comments by his advocate to this effect were made “without instruction”. 

On Tuesday, advocate Nazeer Cassim told the three judges deciding on an application to set aside the findings of the Seriti inquiry that it had failed to investigate corruption allegations.

The inquiry found no evidence of corruption in the multi-billion-rand arms deal, and has been relied on by former president Jacob Zuma to question the validity of the corruption case against him. 

Cassim raised questions about whether the Seriti inquiry had done its job. “There’s no serious invitation to the evidence leaders that [says]: ‘Look, you must test this evidence. Your job isn’t just come and lead evidence, your job is to come and, in fact, help this commission unearth the issues which are burning out there in the public’,” he said.

But the presidency has stressed that Cassim was expressing his personal opinion, and not the stance taken by Ramaphosa. Cassim has confirmed this to Business Day. 

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko told Business Day that her office “has adopted a neutral position on this case, electing to abide by the court’s decision”.

“What Cassim said was without instruction and he admitted the same to the court himself,” Diko said. “The presidency never said the inquiry had not done its work properly nor had it authorised Adv Cassim to. Our view is that if the court agrees that fairness is the standard, it should set aside the findings”.

Judgment on the application to set aside the Seriti inquiry findings has been reserved. 

The case was brought by Corruption Watch and the Right2Know Campaign, who argued that the commission misled the public and failed to uphold its mandate to investigate the claims of malfeasance it was aware of.

Ramaphosa is not opposing the review application.