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Published: 07 Feb 2011
|DA: Statement by David Maynier, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of defence and military veterans, on the arms deal (07/02/2011)|
The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that the refusal to grant access to documents on mutual legal assistance arrangements relating to the arms deal is part of a cover up to hide the fact that Menzi Simelane, then Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, blocked the arms deal investigation being conducted by the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has refused access to documents, on mutual legal assistance arrangements relating to the arms deal, which were requested in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), on the grounds that disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the international relations of South Africa.
In a letter from the department, dated 14 December 2010, but which was only received on or about 28 January 2011, the department set out the grounds for refusal as follows:
“I hope you will appreciate that the request by the Serious Fraud Office of the Government of the United Kingdom to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for mutual legal assistance was submitted through the Diplomatic Channels of the two countries in the normal course of exercising the diplomatic relations. Disclosure of the documentation relating to mutual legal assistance arrangements in relation to the Strategic Defence Package (“Arms Deal”) will in my view, prejudice the international relationship that the Republic of South Africa has with the United Kingdom.”
The fact is that the department has not provided a convincing reason - supported by evidence - for refusing access to the documentation. Moreover, the department is silent on documentation relating to mutual legal assistance arrangements with other countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany.
The refusal to grant access to the documentation amounts to what the Supreme Court of Appeal referred to, in President of the Republic of South Africa versus M&G Media Limited (Case No. 570/2010), as a “perfunctory and dismissive response”.
The DA has therefore submitted an internal appeal, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000).