Tribunal implicates apartheid arms embargo violators

Apartheid crimes committed by the state and civilians must be investigated by the United Nations, says the final report by the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crimes which was released on Thursday.

The People’s Tribunal was organised by civil society organisations, which said the state had failed to fully investigate allegations of corruption and state capture. Members of the public were invited to give evidence. The panel was made up of retired judge Zak Yacoob, former UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay, the Social Justice Coalition’s Mandisa Dyantyi, Allyson Maynard Gibson QC and labour rights activist Dinga Sikwebu.

READ MORE: French presidents ‘tried to torpedo SA arms deal probe

In February, the tribunal delivered an interim report after having heard five days of evidence and arguments relating to three main issues:the arms deal, pre-democracy UN sanctions violations and state capture.

Affected parties were given three months to respond to the interim findings. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the ANC, the presidency of South Africa and the Belgian Embassy in South Africa acknowledged receipt but did not respond.

The tribunal’s final report states that there is enough evidence to warrant at least a thorough investigation into the conduct of a number of entities, including the French government and Belgium’s Kredietbank.


The evidence heard at the tribunal included that foreign governments were publicly posturing as anti-apartheid activists but were secretly supporting the apartheid regime.

“They co-operated with the apartheid system, ensuring the unlawful flow of arms and ammunition and facilitating payment through a labyrinth of devious structures and routes. All this was secret,” says the report. “There is no doubt that the violations of the UN weapons boycott resolutions were either deliberately aimed at helping the apartheid state or inevitably and unarguably had that result.

“We are satisfied that those who did not expressly intend to support apartheid, or those who say that they did not, are substantially guilty of this crime against humanity.”

The report states that even though Kredietbank was the only implicated party that responded to the preliminary report, it said it could not find records.

“But the bank made no effort to deny the allegations. Nor were the allegations denied by anyone else. The implications of the absence of responses is that there is now even greater reason to ensure that economic crimes during apartheid be properly investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted,” said the report.

Regarding the 1999 arms deal, the tribunal recommends that the NPA and the police should investigate every transaction to determine whether the arms purchased were necessary, if the price was appropriate and whether there is any justification for the allegation that these purchases were made to benefit politicians and business people.

The tribunal also weighed in on the ongoing judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture,saying it would monitor the work of the commission to determine “what intervention might be appropriate”.

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