Publication: Sapa Issued: Date: 2004-05-05 Reporter: Sapa

Judgement in Arms Deal Appeal Reserved




Date 2004-05-05



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Two Cape High Court judges on Wednesday reserved judgement on an attempt for leave to appeal against their rejection of a challenge to South Africa's multi-billion rand arms deal.

Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (Ecaar) wants the foreign loan agreements and export guarantees Finance Minister Trevor Manuel approved to finance the deal in 2002 cancelled.

It says he failed to apply his mind before signing them, and that that if finance and escalation costs are included South Africa's total liability for the deal could rise to R287-billion by 2010.

In March, High Court judges Andre Blignault and James Yekiso turned down Ecaar's challenge, saying its attack should have focused on the original cabinet decision to acquire the arms, not on Manuel's secondary decision to raise funds.

Advocate John van der Berg, appearing for Ecaar in Wednesday's bid for leave to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, told Blignault and Yekiso they had erred in making this finding.

He said legal precedent was that cabinet's deliberations and the reasoning behind its decisions were closed to public scrutiny.

In the circumstances the logical alternative was Manuel, who bore ultimate responsibility for government spending.

Michael Kuper, appearing for the government, argued however that there was no prospect of another court coming to a different conclusion.

Ecaar had been laying "one false trail upon another false trail", including raising the issue of public interest.

However there was little public interest in Manuel's decision to enter into the loan agreements, and it had not occasioned criticism.

He asked that the application be dismissed with costs of two counsel.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Independent Online.