A commission of inquiry set up by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has cleared of any wrongdoing people implicated in a controversial arms deal marred by allegations of bribery. Zuma stated the team set up to probe charges of graft did not find any evidence of corruption or fraud.
"There was no evidence of undue or improper influence in the selection of the preferred bidders," the report released by the commission stated. The ruling party African National Congress (ANC) welcomed the findings and said it was confident the report will put an halt to allegations of bribery and corruption surrounding the arms deal.
Totalling 30bn rand (£2.5bn; $5bn), the deal enabled the ANC to purchase weapons to modernise the country's defence force. Announced in 1999, it was the largest arms deal since the end of apartheid in 1994 and it involved several European companies.
A first investigation conducted in 2000 concluded that the party had not acted illegally. However, the arms deal was probed again following the emergence of allegations of bribery. Zuma was dismissed as deputy-president in 2005 after his former former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption over the 1999 deal. He was found guilty of trying to solicit a bribe from French arms company Thales on behalf of Zuma.
Zuma was also charged, but the case was controversially dropped a few months before the 2009 general election that saw Zuma emerging as president. In 2011, Zuma announced a commission of inquiry following repeated allegations of corruption around the deal. The commission started investigating in 2013 with Zuma repeatedly claiming he would step down if found guilty of any wrong-doing.
The findings were released as Zuma is facing mounting pressure and has been urged to step down following growing discontent and allegations of corruption. The president is accused, among other things, of having close ties with the controversial Gupta family who are accused of wielding excessive political influence in the country. The Gupta family denies the allegations.
Zuma was also at risk of being impeached earlier in April after the country's Constitutional Court ruled the leader and the National Assembly breached the constitution for failing to repay state funds used to renovate Zuma's Nkandla private residence, in KwaZulu-Natal province.