South African opposition parties called for an independent commission of inquiry into the South African multi-billion rand arms deal in the wake of Friday’s Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling that charges against ANC president Jacob Zuma were unconstitutional.

DA parliamentary leader Sandra Botha said on Monday it submitted a motion to Parliament calling for a debate over the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

In his ruling Judge Chris Nicholson said it was desirable for a commission of inquiry to be set up to probe the arms deal.   Botha urged the House to call on “President Thabo Mbeki to appoint an independent commission of inquiry, headed by a retired judge, to investigate whether any abuse of power, and/or corruption, and/or any other irregularities occurred in the execution of the arms deal.

“Our decision to move this motion arises from statements made by Judge Nicholson… in which he stated, amongst other things, [that] it would be naive to suggest that the allegations concerning corruption relating to the arms deal have ceased or diminished in intensity,” Botha said.

She said the judge’s sentiments echo the call that the DA has been making for a number of years, namely that the only way to get to the truth of any corruption associated with the arms deal is for the President to establish an independent commission of enquiry.

“The ANC has been celebrating Friday’s judgement as a victory for Jacob Zuma, however the governing party is guilty of quoting selectively from the judgment. The simple fact remains – as Judge Nicholson himself was at pains to point out – that the verdict has no bearing on Zuma’s guilt or innocence on fraud and corruption charges. There are still serious questions remaining about his conduct, and whether he is guilty of criminal misconduct,” Botha said.

“If Jacob Zuma and the ANC genuinely have the interests of the country at heart, then there can be no reason for them to go against the judge’s recommendation to hold a commission of enquiry.”
African Christian Democratic Party justice spokesman Steve Swart said a commission of inquiry would ensure that the country’s political leaders did not govern under a cloud.

“{It will} determine once and for all whether there is any truth to the allegations of corruption relating to the arms deal, so that our political leaders can, in the words of Judge Nicholson, govern in peace and tranquillity and not under an ever present cloud of suspicion and scandal,” he said.
Independent Democrats president Patricia de Lille also submitted a motion to Parliament calling on President Thabo Mbeki to institute a commission of inquiry into the arms deal.
She said it was ‘the undeniable fact that without a full inquiry into allegations of arms deal corruption contained in the De Lille Dossier, the cloud of suspicion hanging over the heads of a number of ANC leaders will continue to grow.’
“Despite interference from the President and vicious attacks from tripartite alliance leaders, the courts have proved themselves capable of delivering verdicts without fear or favour,’ said De Lille.
“Once the celebrations at Luthuli House (headquarters of the ANC) have ended, it remains to be seen whether the ANC leadership and its alliance partners are really serious about corruption and justice.”