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Arms deal commission court ruling hailed by anti-corruption activists

The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, ran for four years and cost taxpayers over R130 million.

FILE: Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC politician who famously resigned from Parliament in 2001 over the party's handling of the Arms Deal. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG/PRETORIA - The setting aside of the findings of the arms deal commission has been described as important for the country and judiciary.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Pretoria found the commission failed to comprehensively investigate the arms deal as it had been mandated to do. The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, ran for four years and cost taxpayers over R130 million.

The judgment followed an application by non-profit organisations Corruption Watch and Right2Know to have the 2016 findings of the commission declared null and void and set aside for review.

Corruption Watch welcomed the judgment.

“We are looking now to the National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Police Service to obviously do what’s in their mandate,” said attorney Tara Davis.

The High Court criticised the commission for paying scant regard for the serious evidence of corruption against parties implicated in the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said statements of denial in the face of strong aggravating evidence were accepted by the commission.

“The commission failed to enquire fully into the matters it had to investigate. The questions posed to the witnesses were hardly the questions of an evidence leader seeking to determine the truth,” he said.

In other instances, the commission didn’t bother to interrogate the implicated parties.

Long-time arms deal activist Andrew Feinstein said the ruling had been a long time coming.

“I think that judgment is really an important one. First for the South African judiciary and for civil society,” Feinstein said.

But one person who won’t be celebrating this judgment was former President Jacob Zuma. He used the findings of the arms deal commission to argue in his corruption case that there was no need to prosecute him because the report had already exonerated him.

Therefore, with this ruling, he would no longer place reliance on those findings.

LISTEN: High Court sets aside Arms Deal Commission findings