NEWS & ANALYSIS

What Jacob Zuma said about arms deal inquiry

President says it is too early to say whether report will be released to the public (March 15)

Unrevised transcript of President Jacob Zuma's answer to questions in National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town, March 15 2012

2. The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1). Whether he intends releasing the full and unexpurgated final report to be produced by the Commission of Inquiry into the Arms Deal; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(2).whether steps will be taken against the persons that would be implicated in the report; if not, why not; if so, what steps?              NO531E

REPLY:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, hon members, when I announced the establishment of a commission of enquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption and impropriety or irregularity in the strategic defence procurement package in September 2011, I reiterated the importance of dealing decisively with the matter, which is, no doubt, of public interest. Consistent with the announcement, I will, on receipt of the commission's final report, deal with said report in a manner that acknowledges both public interest and principles to which I am enjoined to constitutionally give effect to, out of respect for the commission and the responsibility, which attaches to their work and deliberations. I will not predict or prejudge the future. I will be guided by the recommendations of the report, including whether it should be made public or not. To do otherwise would unfairly prescribe to the commission the manner in which its recommendations should be framed. Thank you. [Applause.]

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members, order!

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hon Speaker, hon President, this saga has engulfed our country for over ten years now and, as a great deal of public concern about the fact that this report will not be made public, because it might implicate senior members of the government, even senior members of your own Cabinet. This will only cast further doubt about whether or not this government is committed to exposing corruption and to making South Africa a place that is not a destination for shady people to do shady business. I honestly believe that if you think that the public interest and principles to which you are enjoined are the issue at heart, then you have to commit to this House that you will release the report and make it public within a reasonable timeframe, say, three months, after it's been tabled to you. It would be in order for you to give the public the assurance that this government will not tolerate corruption within its senior ranks. [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, the report is not yet done; it's not yet done. You know that people were saying I should investigate this arms deal. There was a big hullabaloo about it - lots of speeches. We then took a decision to set up a commission of enquiry. Now the commission of enquiry is just about to start and there is already a debate about what will happen. That's a debate of ...

 IsiZulu:

... zangoma. Ufuna sibhule manje.[Ubuwelewele.] Kufuneka sibhule sithi yizwa! Uma isiphumile, yizwa!

English:

If hon members could wait until the report is made and there are clear recommendations made by the commission, you can then ask at that point what you are going to do with that report. The question would be legitimate. It would not be appropriate to begin to debate the issue now as the President would have to be guided by the recommendations. What else?

IsiZulu:

Ubungoma lobo, siyobhula manje sithi yizwa![Ubuwelewele.]

English:

Really, I don't see any logic in saying if this happens, what would you do then. It is just like going to the doctor; if the doctor diagnoses you, what would you do? You don't even know what the diagnosis would be, but you want it and what you would do about it to be discussed at that moment. I don't think that is fair. It's not fair. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr D A KGANARE: Speaker, hon President, my question is prompted by statements and responses given by the former President Thabo Mbeki and yourself, sir, as the former Deputy President on this issue.

As you crafted the terms of reference of this commission, sir, did you create a room for Hansard to be consulted in order to cross-reference the outcome of the investigation and what was said before?

My question is because hon Lekota, who was the then Minister of Defence and now the leader of Cope, has put it on record, in this House that ...[Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: Order, order, hon members!

Mr D A KGANARE: ... he is prepared to subject himself to public scrutiny. Are you prepared to do the same, sir?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, we have set up a commission and the commission will have information before it, and it will have the kind of people it will be able to ask questions to. Those people will have to go to the commission. Whoever the questioned person is, it could be Terror Lekota who was the then Minister of Defence, now the leader of Cope or Jabob Zuma, the Deputy President then and now the President. The fact of the matter is that this is a commission of the country that must get the truth. Whoever would be called by the commission, will go. I don't think there is any difficulty on that one.

Adv A H GAUM: Hon Speaker, Mr President, I think you are very right to say that the question by the hon Leader of the Opposition is a bit like calling for a premature diagnosis and prescription. You are only visiting the doctor next week ... [Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: Order, order!

Adv A H GAUM:...but I want to know from you today already or she wants to know from you today already what lifestyle changes you are planning to make - we don't even know whether you have cholesterol or whatever the case might be.

Nonetheless, we need to congratulate u for appoint this commission of enquiry into the arms deal ...

The SPEAKER: Order, hon members, order!

Adv A H GAUM: ... and to ask you to please apply your mind to the contents of the commission's report as you've indicated before taking any action. Being mindful of the risk of falling into same trap as the Leader of the Opposition, does government plan any interim steps to make sure that we prevent future problems that may occur with the procurement of arms?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, certainly. The arms deal in this country has been an experience that we must all learn from. In future, if we were to undertake such a task, we would certainly look at what happened in our experience and take the correct steps in order to eliminate some of the things that might have caused problems. There's no doubt about it. Thank you.

Mr N SINGH: Speaker, Mr President, indeed the appointment of the commission is a decisive step. But we need to remind ourselves that this matter first surfaced in this House in December 2001, which is more than 10 years ago when the joint investigation report was released. Now 10 years later, Mr President, we received a letter from Lieutenant-General Dramat, the head of priority crime, in which he indicated that there is one case which has been submitted to the prosecuting authority for a decision and there's also a request for neutral legal assistance from abroad.

I would like to know, Mr Speaker, through you to the President, what your view will be with actions such as these that we are told will be taken should they be delayed, suspended or stopped completely while the commission is still going to take another two years to release the report?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Excuse me, before you sit down, what is the action? Just make me hear you more clearly.

Mr N SINGH: Mr Speaker, in this letter, it says, the one case has now been submitted to the prosecuting authority for a decision whether or not to prosecute and to advise on further investigation which may be required. The other case has also been referred to the prosecuting authority with the view to prosecutorial assistance being rendered in obtaining evidence from abroad through a request from neutral legal assistance. My question, through you Mr Speaker, to the President, is: Should this kind of action which was suggested by Lieutenant-General Dramat be stopped, suspended or delayed whilst the commission is preparing its report, which they will release in two years' time? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, I don't know whether I should have the view about matters that relate to the investigators and legal people who are writing letters to them. I don't think I am qualified to take that decision. That decision must be taken by the relevant authorities. Thank you. [Applause.]

Source: Hansard, unrevised transcript

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