Publication: Sunday Times Issued: Date: 2014-07-27 Reporter: Andre Jurgens

De Lille’s arms deal claims ‘need probing’



Sunday Times

Date 2014-07-27

Andre Jurgens


She gets hostile reception at Seriti commission

I’ve never claimed the allegations prove the guilt of any of the people mentioned in the dossier

“COMPANIES, interested groups, senior government officials and members of parliament who are involved in the arms deal are corrupting the democratic process in South Africa.”

With these words, written in an unexpected “dossier of corruption”, all hell broke loose over its claims.

South Africa is still grappling with the fallout nearly 15 years after Patricia de Lille produced the dossier in parliament. She is still adamant that the allegations must be investigated. But there are doubts about whether the commission of inquiry into the arms deal, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, is up to the task.

Phase two of the inquiry, concerned with probing allegations of corruption, got off to a shaky start this week. Richard Young, a witness who has a trail of evidence running to thousands of pages, was unable to attend on Monday.

His reasons for not attending and the version presented by the commission’s advocate Fanyana Mdumbe led to an internal clash and the resignation of two of Mdumbe’s colleagues, Barry Skinner SC and Carol Sibiya. They had been gathering evidence from Young and their departure has cast a shadow over the credibility and ability of the commission.

At least six members of the commission have resigned since the beginning of last year, one of them an advocate who cited a sinister “second agenda” ­ a claim the commission denied.

De Lille, the original arms deal whistleblower and now the mayor of Cape Town, was greeted with high expectations at the inquiry on Thursday. But instead of evidence, her dossier contained allegations that needed investigating.

De Lille’s evidence was led by advocate Simmy Lebala, who at times gave the impression of being her adversary. He referred to her affidavit saying: “What becomes clear is that the date of the 9th of September 2009 is very critical.” De Lille said the dossier was from 1999. Lebala hesitated, corrected the date, and said: “Needless to mention . . . this statement was not drawn up by our team.”

There was a significant backlash when the contents of the dossier became public knowledge. De Lille described it to the commission. “I wanted to assist our government to root out some of the bad apples . . . What followed after that day . . . was two years of hell. I was vilified, I was called names. I was called a useless idiot. I was followed.”

She insisted that an initial review of the dossier by advocate Frank Khan, then head of the National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape, confirmed the existence of prima facie evidence that needed probing.

Khan and former justice minister Penuell Maduna told this to then-president Thabo Mbeki, she told the commission. “That Friday night, president Mbeki went on national television and he says that he’s been advised there is no prima facie evidence in that De Lille dossier. And like he’s done before at this very commission a week ago, he still asked for evidence,” said De Lille.

She took a hammering under cross-examination as legal counsel for the department of defence and Mbeki ­ represented by three advocates ­ implied that it was drafted by a discredited individual.

They grew impatient as De Lille refused to identify the source. Instead, she repeated one sentence over and over: “The dossier contains allegations which I believe the commission must investigate, but I’ve never claimed the allegations prove the guilt of any of the people mentioned in the dossier.”

“You are unwilling to engage me,” said Jennifer Cane, an advocate for the Department of Defence. She repeated the question. De Lille repeated her mantra.

“You read so well,” said Cane.

De Lille also took flak on social media for failing to “spill the beans”. But the thrust of her argument was lost in the Twitter debate. She wanted to know whether the commission would investigate the allegations in the dossier.

Despite it being criticised for spelling mistakes and scant proof of corruption, the dossier did contain grains of truth that led to the conviction of former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik. It also implicated Jacob Zuma.

“Tony Yengeni bought a Mercedes 4x4 ML 320 Auto. It is alleged that the money came from the British . . .” read just two sentences in the dossier.

A months-long investigation by the Sunday Times was met with obfuscation, lies and threats, but it eventually uncovered the truth.

Yengeni and several other key figures in government and the military ­ who held positions of influence related to the arms deal procurement process ­ were sold discounted luxury cars by a company linked to the deal.

Yengeni was jailed for defrauding parliament.

It remains to be seen what the Arms Procurement Commission will do with potentially damaging evidence against prominent individuals that was unearthed by German and British investigators. There are copies of bribe agreements, travel arrangements and bank account deposits.

With acknowledgement to Andre Jurgens and Sunday Times.

I think it is a reasonable conclusion that the APC is klaar.

At least for me.

How can I work with it ever again when its members bullshit so much?

How can I accept a new evidence leader who is going to be adversarial?