Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2006-02-08 Reporter: Ernest Mabuza

Lekota in Court to Block Young



Business Day

Date 2006-02-08


Ernest Mabuza

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Defence 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.

Young ­ 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 Young access.

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 purpose.

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 contract.

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" (s9(d)).

*3  Now known as a frigate.

The 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 from reality.

But while the torture never stops *4, only a lobotomy will cause the elephant to forget.

*4  The torture never stops.