Publication: Sapa Issued: Cape Town Date: 2004-03-04 Reporter: Sapa, Ben Maclennan

ECAAR's Arms Deal Challenge Rejected





Cape Town

Date 2004-03-04


Sapa, Ben Maclennan


A non-governmental organisation's application to have the government's multi-billion arms deal scrapped was rejected by the Cape Town High Court on Thursday.

The South African chapter of NGO Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (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.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Ben Maclennan.