Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2004-03-05 Reporter: Estelle Ellis

'Wrong Person Sued in Arms Deal Challenge'



The Star

Date 2004-03-05


Estelle Ellis

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An attempt to scrap the arms deal based on the "irrational decisions" of the minister of finance has been dismissed with costs by the Cape High Court.

However, an "extremely disappointed" Terry Crawford-Browne, head of the South African arm of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (Ecaar), vowed to keep on fighting.

"We will appeal," he said yesterday.

Ecaar-SA took the government to court on "behalf of the poor people" in South Africa in an attempt to have the financial basis of the arms deal declared irrational and unconstitutional.

"The judges have focused on the procedural issues ... and ducked the matters of substance," Crawford-Browne said.

In their judgment judges André Blignault and Jimmy Yekiso said Ecaar had sued the wrong person: "The real thrust of Ecaar's complaint is that massive funds have been committed by the government to the acquisition of arms which this country does not need.

"The funds could have been used for poverty alleviation. That being so, Ecaar should have focused on the real and effective decision to acquire these arms, namely that of the cabinet."

They also found that basing their court case on warnings contained in an affordability report was also wrong.

"The thrust of the warnings was not to advise the decision-maker to desist from concluding the transactions in question. It was to inform the decision-maker what risks to take into account if he does proceed," the judges said.

They dismissed the case with costs.

With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and The Star.