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Zuma names judge to probe S.African arms deal

Published on 24/10/2011

President Jacob Zuma on Monday named a top judge to head a commission of inquiry into a multi-billion-dollar arms deal which involves claims of bribery in the country's largest military contract.

Justice Willie Seriti from the Supreme Court of Appeal will head the panel, which also includes two judges from the Pretoria high court, Zuma told reporters.

“Justice Seriti will chair the commission, which is expected to complete its work within two years,” Zuma said.

“We wish Justice Seriti and his team well in the execution of this important task,” he added.

The arms deal is a political hornets’ nest in South Africa, where Zuma himself had faced charges of fraud, money laundering and racketeering in connection with the 1999 deal.

Charges against Zuma were dropped just before his election in 2009, after roiling South African politics for a decade.

The court verdict that dropped the charges against Zuma implied that former president Thabo Mbeki had meddled in the prosecution of the case, which led to Zuma’s dismissal as deputy president in 2005.

South Africa spent about $5 billion to modernise its military, in a deal that included the purchase of 12 trainer Hawk jets and naval patrol boats from five European groups, including BAE systems and French arms firm Thales, which was then known as Thomson-CSF.