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Donen report finds no criminal activity

Dec 07 2011 17:35 Sapa

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Cape Town - The Donen Commission of Inquiry into allegations of illicit activities in the United Nations' Iraq oil-for-food programme found that no one whose name featured in their investigation had contravened any South African law.

"It has to be stressed that the Donen Report does not make any definitive final findings in respect of the conduct of the named individuals in so far as the impact of such conduct on UN resolutions and policy is concerned," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Wednesday.

President Jacob Zuma released the report earlier in the day.

The commission was established on February 17, 2006 by then president Thabo Mbeki to investigate alleged illicit activities of certain South African companies or individuals relating to the UN programme.

Maharaj said Mbeki had refused the commission's last request for extra time and the commission consequently handed in its final report in September 2006.

Interim reports had been handed in May and June that year.

"Former president Mbeki decided against releasing the report pending the advice from the chief state law adviser and due to its incompleteness among other reasons."

Maharaj said it was important to note that all those caught up in the subject matter of the inquiry were not the subjects of the commission's investigation.

They also did not have an opportunity to present their version of events fully.

"In addition, much of the commission's collection of information did not involve evidence on oath with the test of cross-examination being applied."

Released with the three-part report was a letter written by the chairman Advocate Michael Donen SC, to the then director general in the presidency, dated August 28, 2009.

"He wrote it because he found that the leaked versions of the commission report first published in the media on 23 August 2009, had created misconceptions about the true content of the commission reports," Maharaj said.

"These misconceptions severely impugned the character and dignity of several persons."

The commission found that no one whose name featured in their investigation had contravened any South African law.

Donen's letter explicitly stated that the three persons "named" by the media -- Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, and the DG of the minerals and energy department Sandile Nogxina -- were not the subjects of the commission's investigation.

Motlanthe, who was at the time the secretary-general of the ANC, had intervened with the authorities in Iraq to ensure that they adhered to the decisions and rules determined by the UN programme.

Donen also stated that Nogxina, "made a valuable contribution to the commission's work", that "no blame could be attached to the DG", and that "his personal involvement as a participant in illicit activities was so remote as to not even warrant any consideration of his culpability or otherwise".

Regarding Sexwale, the commission "exonerated Mr Sexwale from liability as a participant in illicit activities".

"The comments made in the report are not to be elevated to findings of fact. These were interim and untried comments as the report recognises. They must be treated as such," Maharaj said.

The September 2006 report proposed actions or steps to be taken to prevent companies or persons falling under South African jurisdiction from becoming involved in future illegal or irregular international activities, including sanctions-busting in respect of internationally imposed sanctions.

Zuma had asked Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe to review the documentation and consider passing the relevant legislation and/or amend existing legislation to rectify any shortcomings in domestic law, Maharaj said.

Cape Town - The commission of inquiry into the Iraq "food for oil" programme found that while businessman Sandile Majali had undertaken to pay a surcharge to Iraqi authorities in spite of UN sanctions, the commission did not make findings against any individual named.

The report of the commission led by advocate Michael Donen was released by President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday after an undertaking to release the report by no later than December 7, after the Cape Argus launched an urgent application in the Cape High Court for the release of the report.

The statement on the Presidency website cited a letter written by Donen to the Presidency saying that "the three persons 'named' by the media, such as the honourable Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the honourable Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale, and the Director-General of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Advocate Sandile Nogxina were not the subjects of the commission's investigation."

The statement said that Deputy President Motlanthe, who was at the time the secretary-general of the African National Congress, had intervened with the authorities in Iraq in order to ensure that they adhered to the decisions and rules determined by the UN Security Council Oil for Food Programme in Iraq.

Donen also stated that the former director-general of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Sandile Nogxina, "made a valuable contribution to the commission's work", that "no blame could be attached to the director-general" and that "his personal involvement as a participant in illicit activities was so remote as to not even warrant any consideration of his culpability or otherwise".

The statement said that in the case of the Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale, who was in business at the time, the Commission "exonerated Sexwale from liability as a participant in illicit activities".

The report stated that Sandile Majali, who died a year ago, had undertaken to pay the surcharge to the Iraqi authorities, contrary to the UN programme; that it seemed he had only made partial surcharge payments and that again there was no evidence that he had acted contrary to any South African laws.

"It has to be stressed that the Donen Report does not make any definitive final findings in respect of the conduct of the named individuals in so far as the impact of such conduct on United Nations Resolutions and Policy is concerned," the Presidency statement said.

Former President Thabo Mbeki commissioned the Donen inquiry in 2006 after the US government accused South African companies of paying a "surcharge" to the Iraqi government, led by Saddam Hussein, to obtain oil, which should have been traded for food instead.

The final, of three parts to the report, was submitted to President Mbeki in June 2006 and it had been under wraps since then.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj has said the information in the Donen reports had to be treated with care and that President Zuma was "aware of the potential misuse of the contents of the report".

"We wish to caution that the comments made in the report about individuals must not be elevated to findings of fact as these were interim and untried comments," Maharaj said.
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