Publication: Sunday Times Issued: Date: 2013-03-17 Reporter: Stephan Hofstatter Reporter: Mzilikazi wa Afrika

Nepotism claims levelled at arms deal commission



Sunday Times

Date 2013-03-17

Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika

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This girl behaves like she is the judge just because she is related to him and Judge Seriti is allowing her to bulldoze everyone

THE Seriti commission probing allegations of corruption in the government ’ s arms deal hit more turbulence this week with fresh allegations of nepotism and cronyism.

Several staffers have accused office manager Samkelo Hlatshwayo of abusing her family links to commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti to bully other members of the team, including respected lawyers.

The former SAA cabin attendant, who was appointed despite having no managerial experience, is said to throw her weight around with a “blessing from the top ”, according to three sources close to the commission.

They confirmed reported claims that she is Judge Seriti’s niece.

“If you ask Samkelo something she doesn’t like, you will be summoned to Judge Seriti’s office where you would be scolded like a child,” said one.

Another said: “When Samkelo arrives at the office in the morning, she phones the security guards to escort her from the parking to her office like she is a big shot. That’s a gross abuse of power. This girl behaves like she is the judge just because she is related to him ­ and Judge Seriti is allowing her to bulldoze everyone. ”

The commission’s secretary, Pretty Luphondo, also stands accused of nepotism. She is said to have used her influence to get three of her relatives jobs on the commission as cleaner, tea lady and personal assistant, according to three commission sources.

The former cleaner, whose name is known to the Sunday Times, was allegedly sent packing to create a post for Luphondo’s relative and is said to have left the building in tears.

When Judge Seriti was asked to clarify his relationship with Hlatshwayo and respond to claims that he condoned her alleged abuse of power, his spokesman, William Baloyi, said: “We don’t comment on private and personal issues and rumours.”

Luphondo and Hlatshwayo failed to respond to questions sent by SMS.

Meanwhile, a war of words between Judge Seriti and his star witnesses intensified this week when former banker Terry Crawford-Browne threatened to go to court if the commission failed to summons the ANC to appear before it. In a lawyer’s letter sent to the commission on Friday, Crawford-Browne demanded “confirmation by noon on 22 March 2013 that the summons previously requested in respect of the ANC will be issued without further unnecessary delay ”. Otherwise, he said, Judge Seriti would face a high court application with punitive costs.

The Sunday Times reported last week that Judge Seriti had said as recently as three weeks ago there was no need to subpoena the party or its bank accounts because the commission had received “no evidence implicating the African National Congress”.

This week, losing arms deal bidder Richard Young accused the commission of “lying” if it claimed it had not received evidence incriminating the ANC.

On June 8 last year, Young sent the commission a copy of Dusseldorf chief prosecutor HansJosef Wassen’s request to Swiss authorities to gain access to the records of Swiss bank accounts he suspected of being conduits for bribes paid by a consortium led by German warship manufacturer ThyssenKrupp to clinch the R6-billion corvette deal with the South African Navy.

In his request ­ based on evidence seized during raids in company offices in the German cities of Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Essen and Cologne ­ Wassen claims “the consortium had, in fact, paid considerable bribes to achieve the conclusion of the agreement”.

Bribe payments were done through a “commission agreement” to a Liberia-registered company that was paid $22-million from April 2000 to October 2001 “in terms of which at least the predominant part of the aforementioned amount directly or indirectly flowed to South African officials and members of cabinet”, he writes.

Judge Seriti said his comments about the ANC had been “read out of context and blown out of proportion”, Baloyi said this week.

“The demand to summons the ANC is a typical example of another unfortunate experience that the commission has had in its interaction with Mr Terry Crawford-Browne and his attorneys, namely, the persistent attempt to prescribe to the commission how to conduct its work, in particular, whom to call to appear before it and at what stage,” he said.

“Evidence and allegations are not the same thing,” he said.

“The commission is fully aware of the various allegations levelled against some officials and the members of the ANC and other people associated with it.

“These allegations form part of the ongoing investigations that the commission is busy with.”

Key players involved in the arms acquisition process as well as those who are implicated in allegations of wrongdoing would be called during “subsequent phases” of the investigation, he said.

With acknowledgement to Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Sunday Times.

So previously Seriti states in writing that the commission had not received evidence incriminating the ANC.

Then this gets disproved.

But the commission's later press statement makes no mention of it.

Testifying before this commission is going to be an interesting experience.

And my understanding is that allegations dressed up as commissioned affidavits indeed become prima facie evidence.

And that evidence stands until until falls apart under cross-examination.

In this particular instance the same evidence was included in my affidavit before the Constitutional Court.

There the respondents elected not to challenge the motion in court.

The most important reason that they did so is that the factual evidence before the court was unchallengeable.

So the easy way out was taken with a kick for touch.

The respondents in the matter were :

The President of the Republic of South Africa            First Respondent

The Government of the Republic of South Africa           Second Respondent

The applicant was :

Terry the Lion Heart