Publication: Business Day
Reporter: Ernest Mabuza
Lekota in Court to Block Young
Minister Mosiuoa Lekota yesterday appealed to the Pretoria High Court to prevent
an unsuccessful contractor in the multibillion-rand arms deal gaining access to
documents relating to the deal.
Richard Young’s C²I² Systems lost out in
1999 to French arms company Thomson-CSF, now known as Thales, to supply
information management systems for the navy’s four new corvettes.
who thought the contract had been unfairly awarded sought, and last year
won, an order from the court that Lekota give him access to all documents he had
requested after the tender was awarded.
He is planning to sue the
department next year for damages of R150m in lost income plus interest, as he
says the state flouted correct procedure in awarding the contract, and from
African Defence Systems for unlawful competition.
If Lekota’s application
fails and Young gets access to the documents he requires, it will give Young
more ammunition in his suit.
Lekota’s counsel, Paul Pretorius, said
yesterday that Lekota had withheld information requested about the weapons
systems to be installed on corvettes because the Promotion of Access to
Information Act allows documents to be withheld if they contain confidential information *1.
Young’s lawyer, Owen
Rogers, said that despite this, Lekota had failed in his application for leave
to appeal to provide further reasons *2 for refusing
to grant access to Young.
Pretoria High Court Judge Brian Southwood
passed a judgment in April ordering Lekota to furnish Young with all the
requested documents, saying Lekota had not given adequate reasons for refusing
The documents are still with the department, pending the
outcome of Lekota’s appeal. Judgment is expected before the
end of the week.
With acknowledgements to Ernest
Mabuza and Business Day.
*1 There is nothing in the
documents that we seek and that we do not already officially and lawfully have
in our possession, that truly relates to the defence of South Africa. We
expressly do not seek such information as it is unnecessary for our stated
Furthermore, the Act contains an override provision that makes
the access to the sought documents obligatory if it is in the public interest
and it will show a substantial wrongfulness. A few other completed and in
progress court actions have already proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there
were substantial wrongs is the awarding of the corvette *2 combat suite
In any case I hold a top secret clearance and the entire
company secret or confidential clearances. The judge has already ruled that this
is a significant factor.
*2 The request for
access was issued in January 2002 and has so far cost the access applicant
several hundred thousand rand.
One of the objects of the Promotion of
Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 is to facilitate access to information "as
swiftly, inexpensively and effortlessly as reasonably possible"
*3 Now known as a frigate.
chairman of Thomson-CSF spent 50 million Euros changing the name of his corrupt
company to Thales so that his new target customers in the USA and the public
might disassociate themselves from this reality.
The SA Navy wrongfully
called its new major surface combatants "patrol corvettes" to make their
acquisition more palatable to a sceptical public. After various snouts were
caught deep in the corvette contractual feeding trough, they changed the
designation back to frigate hoping that the public might disassociate themselves
But while the torture never stops *4, only a lobotomy will
cause the elephant to forget.
*4 The torture