Hours after the release of the arms deal investigation as announced by President Zuma, opposition parties began raising interesting questions on the issue. The Congress of the People (COPE) on their part consider the result not encouraging considering the number of years and the amount the commission used to release the findings.
Announcing the release of the three-volume investigation result, the president said on Thursday that the commission found the procurement process of the controversial arms to be valid‚ with no evidence of bribery or corruption.
According to President Zuma, the widespread allegations of bribery‚ corruption and fraud … especially in relation to the selection of the preferred bidders and cost‚ have found no support in the evidence‚ oral or documentary‚ placed before the commission.
But in reaction to this, COPE said it was ‘dismayed’ that the commission‚ chaired by Justice Willie Seriti of the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ had uncovered nothing of any importance over four years of sitting.
The party said Minister Mike Masutha revealed that more than R113-million was spent on the Commission and that it thinks the arms deal investigation could have been done in half the time of two years that was initially allowed.
“Why it stretched to four years when evidence of even an iota of wrongdoing was lacking‚ is very hard to fathom. We must ask ourselves whether this commission of inquiry was not a waste of taxpayers’ money‚” said COPE spokesman Dennis Bloem.
“Between 1995 and 1997 Christoph Hoenings of Thyssen‚ Tony Georgiadis and Tony Yengeni allegedly met on five occasions in South Africa‚ Germany and Switzerland and a bribe of R6-million was paid. German detectives were reported to have found a copy of the agreement when they raided ThyssenKrupp which sold four patrol corvettes to South Africa for R6.9-billion” Bloem added.
Speaking further, Bloem noted that Shabir Shaik who was jailed for soliciting bribe was a clear case of corruption in some parts of the process but the commission’s report of no fraud is shocking.
“Shabir Shaik‚ it is common cause‚ was jailed for 15 years for soliciting a bribe from Thint‚ the local subsidiary of Thales. Surely there were those who corrupted some part of the process. Schabir Shaik had secret documents that revealed fraud as well as his corrupt relationship with Zuma. Judge Squires confirmed the existence of a corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma‚”
The party’s insistence on the supremacy of the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law according to Bloem, came from a deeply held belief that it was better and cheaper to do things correctly and to leave no room for any serious or legitimate challenge of any kind.
He said: “COPE is very certain that nobody can hide the truth for ever.”
Meanwhile, the Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said the government welcomed the result of the Arms Deal investigation and feels vindicated by them.
Speaking to journalists at the parliament, Redebe said the result is a confirmation of what they have been saying for years.
“As government, we welcome the findings of the commission. We have been vindicated as we have stated over many years that there was no wrongdoing and that the procurement had been above-board.”