Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2006-02-13 Reporter: Wyndham Hartley Reporter: Ernest Mabuza

Court Orders Lekota to Hand Papers on Arms Deal to Young



Business Day

Date 2006-02-13


Wyndham Hartley,
Ernest Mabuza

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Government has lost a key battle in its efforts to stop further inquiry into the way it conducted itself during the R53bn arms deal.

The Pretoria High Court on Friday again ordered Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota to hand over documents pertaining to the deal to Cape Town arms contractor Richard Young. For almost a year the defence department has stalled on an earlier court order to hand over the documents.

The department mounted a late appeal to try to have the original order overturned.

Young, whose company C²I² Systems lost the bid to supply the combat suites for four corvettes, has mounted court actions to try to demonstrate that his bid was disqualified for reasons other than those given in the report.

The contract was awarded to African Defence Systems and French firm Thompson CSF, which both have connections with convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik.

Young’s victory will heighten political tensions around the corruption trial of former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma is facing corruption charges, with the state arguing that he and his financial adviser, Shaik, benefited illegally from the deal.

Friday’s ruling that Lekota cannot appeal against the order to hand over the papers requested in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act potentially threatens to reopen the row over C²I² being unfairly disqualified.

Young is seeking correspondence and tender documents pertaining to the award of the multimillion-rand contract.

Young at the weekend welcomed the ruling and said the documents would help in strengthening his case against the state for damages of R150m in lost income.

The hearing is set for the Pretoria High Court next year.

“Government has been trying to protect information which will show that there were serious irregularities in the corvette deal. Some of the information will shed light into why African Defence Systems was awarded the tender and why a certain company had to pay for in order to secure protection from prosecution,” Young said.

Pretoria High Court Judge Brian Southwood turned down Lekota’s appeal against the ruling he made last April.

He also refused to condone the late application for leave to appeal by Lekota, who took two months to file the application.

Lekota claimed at the time that the Promotion of Access to Information Act allowed him to refuse to hand over the documents.

Southwood said Young’s evidence was that Lekota’s actions conveyed to Young that the judgment was accepted and would be complied with.

Southwood said secretary of defence January Masilela’s explanation for the delay in making his recommendation to challenge the April ruling at the end of June did not stand up to scrutiny.

With acknowledgement to Wyndham Hartley, Ernest Mabuza and Business Day.