/ 15 May 2008

Ruling reserved in contempt application against Manuel

Arms-deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne on Thursday denied that he was waging a personal vendetta against Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

Addressing the Cape High Court, where he has applied for a contempt-of-court ruling against the minister and former finance director general Maria Ramos, he said: ”The arms deal is not some Trevor/Terry saga.

”I am not motivated by malice against him, even though he has tried twice, and failed twice, to financially sequestrate me.

”My motivation is purely to hold a government minister to account, and to demand that he does his job properly.”

Judge Daniel Dlodlo has reserved his ruling in the application.

Crawford-Browne, who represented himself, has asked the court for an order compelling Manuel and Ramos to supply hundreds of pages of documents related to the multibillion-rand arms deal.

The contempt leg of his claim relates to his allegation that the two were ordered to supply the documents in a 2003 court challenge to the deal, but gave him only 224 of about 700 pages.

He told the court on Thursday that the documents, containing recommendations of the government’s negotiating team and financial working group on the deal, would ”lay a trail” for forensic auditors and financial investigators to track bribes by successful bidder BAE.

He said he needed the documents in order to defend himself against an application Manuel has lodged against him for a permanent gagging order.

The high court last month granted the minister a temporary order preventing Crawford-Browne from accusing him of arms-deal corruption.

However, senior counsel Brian Pincus, appearing for Manuel and Ramos, told Dlodlo it appeared Crawford-Browne had no basis for the corruption allegations he had levelled against Manuel, and was hoping the documents would provide him with justification.

If this was correct, Crawford-Browne’s application was disgraceful.

”Nothing stops this man, [not] even an interdict,” Pincus said.

He said Ramos, now head of Transnet, had never been party to the 2003 court action, never had an order issued against her and could therefore not be held in contempt.

Crawford-Brown had, in fact, been given the documents he asked for, and Ramos had confirmed that in a compliance affidavit.

The activist was using Thursday’s hearing merely to continue his arms-deal crusade. ”We submit there’s been full compliance and that the relief sought is fundamentally flawed and misconceived,” Pincus said.

He said Crawford-Browne had made irrelevant, vexatious and scandalous allegations in his founding papers, and asked for punitive costs, including the cost of two counsel.

Crawford-Browne, a member of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction, is the author of a book on the arms deal, Eye on the Money. — Sapa