Reporter: Martin Welz
Editorial, Martin Welz
Early in 2002, Richard Young’s CCII Systems, designers and manufacturers of
defence software, applied to the Auditor General Shauket Fakie for access to his
working papers and drafts for the controversial report on the government’s
defence procurement programme that he tabled in parliament in November
This followed allegations that the process of the procurement of
the arms had been irregular and corrupt – and that
the irregularities and corruption had led to CCII losing its bid for a part of
the naval component.
Six months later, when CCII had still had no proper
response to its request for information, the company applied to the Pretoria
High Court for an order compelling AG Shauket Fakie to comply with the request.
The first judgment ordering the AG to hand over the documents within 40 days was
delivered on 15 November 2002. It had little or no
By 12 June 2003, Fakie had produced only 751 pages (along with a covering letter informing CCII that that
was all they were going to get). So the company launched another court
application, this time to have the Auditor General declared in contempt of court
– a criminal offence.
Suddenly, the floodgates
opened. Some 10,000 pages of documents had been provided to CCII by
Fakie’s office by the time the contempt application was heard in October 2004.
Not surprisingly, the court found that the only
reason the AG produced the bulk of the documents was the threat of a criminal
conviction for contempt.
The court found Fakie guilty
of contempt of court and, on October 24, 2004 gave him a suspended
sentence of one month’s imprisonment.
Fakie appealed against the judgment
and order. Shortly after leave to appeal was granted on the contempt matter, he
made available the last outstanding draft reports to CCII – “without admission
The appeal was argued in Bloemfontein last month and the
court’s judgment is still awaited.
Pretoria High Court Judge Brian
Southwood last April ordered Defence Minister Terror Lekota to furnish defence
electronics manufacturer Young with all the arms deal documents he had
requested, saying Lekota had not given adequate reasons for refusing Young
access. Young had already formally requested the documents more than two years
earlier, in terms of the Access to Information Act.
You will be aware
that in recent years Mr Lekota has made it known that he now prefers to be known
by his given name, Mosiuoa, rather than his old MK nickname. And who could
gainsay such a charming man? Even we went along with it – until we realised we’d
been had by the smile and the disarming voice.
We have reinstated his old
nickname, because terrifying he remains – now in his outrageous defiance of the
law as a party cover-up man.
ignored the Pretoria court order, for months on end. When Young finally took him
back to court, this time seeking to have the honourable minister up for contempt
of court, Lekota announced that, actually, he wished to take the court’s order
on appeal. Why he should have thought of this only many months out of time becomes clearer and clearer by the minute: He has no genuine defence and is simply abusing his position of
power to cover up documents that will almost certainly prove government dishonesty – and
incompetence – of the most serious kind. Behind the
legal babble he is showing the finger to the courts, and no doubt earning brownie points with the presidency.
Judge Southwood quite properly turned down Terror Lekota’s application for leave
to appeal. The minister was ordered to pay the legal costs, which means that we,
the taxpayers and the poor of the country – not the dishonest party officials
hiding behind the cover-up – will pay still more wasted legal fees.
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]). More than four years have
passed since Young first officially applied for the documents. His legal
costs total hundreds of thousands of rands – in addition to the still bigger
sums paid by taxpayers on behalf of Fakie and Lekota. And now our defence
minister plans to drag it out by petitioning the chief justice.
Presumably he thinks we, the voters, will eventually get bored with the
Arms Deal and move on. He’s wrong. We are riveted.
There has to be extraordinary wrong-doing at a very high level if he’s prepared
to go to such great lengths.
It’s really just a question of who gets to
tell the whole shocking story first: Lekota – or us. The government’s handling
of the arms deal has not only cost our country billions and our government its
credibility; it has tainted every one of our democratic institutions.
- The Editor
With acknowledgement to Martin
Welz and Noseweek.