/ 13 March 2014

Activist: Axe the arms probe

Activist: Axe The Arms Probe

Terry Crawford-Browne, the man who petitioned the Constitutional Court to establish a commission of inquiry into the 1999 arms deal, this week wrote to that court asking it to terminate the Seriti commission of inquiry.  

Crawford-Browne previously took the government to court over its refusal to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the arms deal. In 2011, President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission before the court could rule on the matter. Two months later, the court agreed to the commission's terms of reference and Crawford-Browne withdrew his case.

This week, in a letter addressed to acting chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, Crawford-Browne said the commission has degenerated into a "farce" and should be cancelled by the court "on the basis of its conduct and mala fides [acting in bad faith]".

He asked Moseneke to grant an order declaring the arms deal contracts and loan agreements invalid, as well as an order directing the government to return the arms to its suppliers and reclaim the monies paid. Crawford-Browne also asked for an order blacklisting the arms companies involved in the deal.

He also wants the court to force Zuma and the commission to pay his legal costs incurred in all arms deal-related litigation, which he said are owed to him and have not been paid, "as a mark of the court's strong disapproval of [their] mala fides in covering up malfeasance …"

According to his letter: "My written submission to the commission in June 2012, supported by a legal opinion by advocate Geoff Budlender SC, argued that the offsets failed the requirements of section 217 (1) of the Constitution regarding government procurements, and that the arms deal contracts were consequently illegal and unconstitutional, right from inception.

"Almost two years later, the commission has evidently been unable to rebut those arguments and is thus in contravention of section 237, which requires constitutional obligations to be performed diligently and without delay," Crawford-Browne wrote.

In January, Crawford-Browne wrote to Moseneke, requesting advice on the arms deal commission. He submitted an affidavit asking the court to reopen his case against Zuma, which had initially asked the court to overrule Zuma's previous refusals to establish the commission. But Moseneke responded that judges do not provide legal advice to members of the public.

Crawford-Browne replied that he should have asked for "direction", not "advice".