Publication: Independent Online Issued: Date: 2004-03-04 Reporter: Sapa Reporter: Ben Maclennan

Ecaar to Appeal Arms Ruling



Independent Online

Date 2004-03-04


Sapa, Ben Maclennan

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Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (Ecaar) says it will seek leave to appeal Thursday's Cape High Court ruling on the multi-billion rand arms deal.

"The judges have focused on the procedural issues of jurisdiction and locus standing, and ducked the matters of substance," said Ecaar spokesperson Terry Crawford-Browne.

"In avoiding the merits of the case the judges have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities," he said.

The South African chapter of non-governmental organisation Ecaar wants the foreign loan agreements to finance the deal cancelled because, it says, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel "failed to apply his mind" before signing them.

Judge Andre Blignault said on Thursday the real thrust of Ecaar's complaint was that massive funds had been committed by the government to acquiring arms, which South Africa did not need, and that the money should have been used for poverty alleviation.

"That being so, (the) applicants' attack should have focused on the real and effective decision to acquire these arms, namely that of Cabinet. That decision should have been made the primary object of the review application. The primary attack should have been directed against the cabinet's decision with, perhaps, a consequential attack on the secondary decision to raise funds."

Blignault said as a result of Ecaar's "wrong strategy", the merits of the cabinet decision on the arms deal were not properly analysed in the Ecaar application.

"The cabinet decision must accordingly be accepted as having been a valid decision. Once that is accepted the ratio for applicants' attack on second respondent's decision falls away."

The first respondent is President Thabo Mbeki and Manuel is the second.

Manuel was satisfied with the ruling.

"I have some good news," he told the National Council of Provinces at the close of a debate on the Division of Revenue Bill.

"Terry Crawford-Browne sought to overturn a number of executive decisions. His application was turned down by the court this morning with costs.

"This is very important because this individual sought to continually argue that we don't apply our minds. I want to be there when the costs are recovered."

With acknowledgements to Ben Maclennan, Sapa and Independent Online.