PRICEY:  European defence ministers are due to sign a ¤16bn project for the  Airbus A400M military transport plane, shown here. Picture: REUTERS
PRICEY: European defence ministers are due to sign a ¤16bn project for the Airbus A400M military transport plane, shown here. Picture: REUTERS

A YEAR has elapsed since President Jacob Zuma reluctantly agreed to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal after I had taken him to the Constitutional Court.

The Seriti Commission unfortunately has proved the worst fears — that it would degenerate into an instrument to park a political hot potato. Except the arms deal scandal just won’t go away.

The Hawks confirmed that they inherited from the Scorpions 460 boxes and 4.7-million computer pages of evidence against BAE. The documents I submitted to the Constitutional Court include 160 pages of affidavits that detail how and why BAE paid bribes of £115m to secure its South African contracts. It doesn’t take three years of further investigation to cancel those contracts, return the slightly used BAE Hawk and BAE-Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, and to recover the monies.

The BAE contracts are being financed by Barclays Bank until 2019, and are underwritten by the British government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department. In terms of the remedies in case of bribes clauses in the contracts, SA has the right summarily to cancel the contracts and to claim compensation. Even the British secretary for trade and industry reluctantly admitted that BAE paid bribes for those contracts, the absurdity of which is highlighted by realities that SA lacks the pilots to fly the aircraft, the mechanics to maintain them and even the money to fuel them.

A legal opinion I submitted to the Seriti Commission in June confirms that the arms deal was unconstitutional and illegal right from inception. If the Farlam Commission is required to complete its investigation into the Marikana disaster within four months, why does the Seriti Commission need three years to deal with a far less complicated matter, indeed a "no brainer?" Recovery of R70bn squandered on the arms deal could be achieved within days or weeks, if only there was political will.

Now we learn that European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) wants to take over BAE (EADS’s Enders plans to wrap up BAE merger, September 17 ).

Mr Zuma’s professed commitments to eradicating corruption have proved empty. The US has already fined BAE $479m for laundering bribes through the US banking system and other "accounting irregularities". The next step will be to blacklist BAE from the US market when US authorities review the proposed merger. This would put BAE into bankruptcy, but SA’s international standing sadly will also diminish still further.

Terry Crawford-Browne

Cape Town