Arms procurement commission additional information


The international arms trade remains among the most opaque and non-transparent areas of the world economy.

South Africa has domestic and international obligations that require transparency and the fight against corruption. Unfortunately though, one of South Africa’s biggest scandals of the post-apartheid era involves allegations of wrongdoing in the procurement of arms.


In 1999, the South African government signed the final contracts for the Strategic Defense Procurement Package (SDPP), better known as the “arms deal”. This deal saw South Africa purchase a number of weapon systems, including naval ships, submarines, helicopters and aircraft for use by the South African Defense Force. From the word go, the arms deal has been embroiled in allegations of corruption and fraud. Questions have also been raised regarding its usefulness, particularly due to the lack of any substantial military threat against South Africa after 1994. Concerns were heightened given South Africa’s innumerable social problems that many have argued were in higher need of the resources that were diverted to the procurement of arms.

In 2011, Terry Crawford-Brown approached the Constitutional Court in a bid to force President Jacob Zuma to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the procurement packages and allegations of criminal misconduct resulting from it. The president settled before the matter could be heard in court and agreed to set up the Arms Procurement Commission, headed by Justice W Seriti of the Supreme Court of Appeal as chairperson and Judge H. Musi as commissioner.

In August 2013, hearings got underway in which evidence has been led by Evidence Leaders appointed by the Commission. The evidence has been divided into two phases: Phase I relates to the use, rationale and offsets of the deal and Phase II will deal with allegations of corruption and misconduct. Phase I is expected to last until the end of January 2014 after which an interim report will be handed to the President. Phase II will begin thereafter.

LHR is representing three witnesses who are due to appear in Phase II: Andrew Feinstein, Paul

Holden and Hennie van Vuuren. All three have authored books on the subject. This feature is intended to share information regarding the Commission. If you would like further information, please visit:

For further information, please contact:

David Cote
Strategic Litigation Unit
Lawyers for Human Rights
(012) 320 2943
david [at] lhr [dot] org [dot] za

Melissa du Preez  
Communications Manager
Lawyers for Human Rights
(012) 320 2943
elissadp [at] lhr [dot] org [dot] za


Andrew Feinstein is a South African economist, writer and campaigner based in the UK.

He was a facilitator in the constitutional negotiations process that led to the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, when he was elected an ANC Member of Parliament. He served as an MP for more than seven years - running Parliament’s budget committee, serving as deputy chair of the country’s Audit Commission and as the ranking ANC member on the South African Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

Feinstein resigned in protest when he was prohibited from investigating the arms deal involving several European companies that was tainted by allegations of high-level corruption.

Feinstein wrote about his experiences in his book After the Party: A Personal and Political Journey Inside the ANC. The book was a bestseller in South Africa before being published internationally in early 2009. His critically acclaimed book, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, was first published by Penguin and Farrar, Straus & Giroux in late 2011. It has already been published in seven different editions around the world, with more forthcoming, including a Chinese translation.

An Open Society International Fellow while writing The Shadow World and developing an arms trade manual, Andrew also chairs the Friends of the Treatment Action Campaign, an HIV and Aids charity, registered in the UK since 2001.

Paul Holden is a freelance researcher, writer and activist.

He has written four books to date, all of which have been published to critical acclaim: Great Lives: Pivotal Moments, The Arms Deal In Your Pocket, The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything (with Hennie Van Vuuren) and Who Rules South Africa.

Since 2010, Holden has been based in the UK. He made the move in order to work with Feinstein. Paul worked as the lead researcher on Feinstein’s study of the global arms trade, The Shadow World. Holden and Feinstein work closely with international and South African partners in pursuing corruption investigations around the world under the umbrella organisation Corruption Watch. Paul is still deeply engaged with South Africa’s core issues, most notably corruption and governance.

Hennie van Vuuren is an activist, researcher and writer.

He is a Research Associate at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and past fellow of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa. He is the co-author of The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything and has authored numerous papers and reports including Apartheid Grand Corruption.

Van Vuuren worked for the Institute for Security Studies in Cape Town from 2002-2012 as Office Director, Head of the Corruption & Governance Programme and Senior Researcher. Prior to joining the ISS he worked as a programme officer at the Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin, Germany from 1999-2001.

He is active in civil society forums and is a founding member of the Right2Know Campaign and is an elected member of the Right2Know National Working Group.