Decision on new arms deal probe delayed

Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne’s bid to force President Jacob Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry into the R30-billion arms deal will have to wait for a few months longer.

The Constitutional Court postponed its hearing on Thursday to give both parties more time to gather information and present their cases and will hear argument again on September 20 before deciding whether to order Zuma to act.

Crawford-Browne’s application revives hopes of a probe into the arms deal, which was buried when the police’s crime investigation unit, the Hawks, opted to shut down the two remaining active legs of its investigation in October last year.

If successful in his application, Crawford-Browne would also compel Zuma to launch an inquiry into a scandal, in which Zuma himself was inconclusively implicated.

Crawford-Browne unsuccessfully petitioned two sitting presidents — Kgalema Motlanthe in December 2008 and Zuma himself in June 2009 — for an arms deal probe.

He now wants the Constitutional Court to decide whether the president has a constitutional duty to appoint an independent commission of inquiry in certain circumstances.

The dispute before the Constitutional Court centres on a possible conflict between two clauses in the Constitution: first, that the president is responsible for appointing commissions of inquiry, and second, that only the Constitutional Court can decide that the president has failed to fulfil a constitutional obligation.

In the heads of argument before the court Crawford-Browne’s legal team states: “The responsibility to appoint a commission of inquiry has to be exercised in a way that is constitutional. The failure to discharge the responsibility when the facts cry out for its discharge is equally unconstitutional.”

In his responding application Zuma argues that the right to appoint a commission of inquiry is “a discretionary power conferred upon the president, which is not constrained in any express manner by the provisions of the Constitution”.

On Thursday Crawford-Browne’s counsel, Paul Hoffman SC, engaged in a legal skirmish with Zuma’s counsel, Marumo Moerane SC, over whether the court had enough evidence before it.


Zuma’s legal team’s decision not to respond in its court papers to allegations contained in Crawford-Brown’s founding application, but rather to challenge the legal merits of the application, was partly responsible for the postponement. Moerane argued that his client cannot respond to particulars of claim and that a full affidavit from Crawford-Browne is required.

Before Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo ordered a postponement, Justice Johann van der Westhuizen remarked that it was in the “interests of justice” for the court’s 11 judges to receive full factual representation from both sides before hearing the matter.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, supported by M&G Media and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, produced this story. All views are the centre’s. www.amabhungane.co.za.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations