Another round of public hearings set for the Seriti Commission


Five of the foreign companies involved in supplying military hardware to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as part of the 1998 Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPPs) have been called to give evidence to the Seriti Commission.

Other witnesses who will take the stand at the Tshwane metro council chamber next month in what appears to be the third and final round of public hearings are Richard Young, whose company was an unsuccessful bidder for the combat suites aboard the Valour Class frigates; former Hawks investigator Colonel Johan du Plooy; and Major General Hans Meiring, former head of the Commercial Crimes Unit within the Hawks.

Other witnesses are set to include representatives of BAE/SAAB (the consortium that supplied Hawk Lead-In Fighter Trainers and Gripen jet fighters), Agusta (now AgustaWestland, suppliers of both Agusta A109 light utility helicopters and Super Lynx maritime helicopters), German companies Ferrostaal and Thyssenkrupp (Valour Class frigates and Heroine Class Type 209 submarines) and Thales, the French headquartered defence company that was a major supplier of various electronic systems at the time of the SDPPs.

The programme supplied by the Commission sees Young on the stand from February 2 to 6 followed by representatives of the defence industry companies between February 16 and 20. Du Plooy is scheduled to give evidence on February 23 and 24 with Meiring is the final witness on February 27.

They follow a long line of witnesses ranging from serving and retired SA Air Force and SA Navy officers as well as former Cabinet Ministers including Trevor Manual (Finance), Mosiuoa Lekota and Ronnie Kasrils (Defence) and Alec Erwin (Public Enterprises). Others who have answered Seriti commission subpoenas are Fana Hlongwane, advisor to now deceased Defence Minister Joe Modise; Chippy Shaik, acquisitions director for the Department of Defence at the time of the acquisitions and long-time anti-arms deal campaigner, Terry Crawford-Browne.

The commission will hear closing arguments in terms of the rationale and utilisation of equipment acquired, job opportunities created by the SDPP as well as possible corruption and wrongdoing and possible cancellation of the contracts from April 13 to 24. It is not clear, at this stage, whether these hearings will be open to the public.

The Commission has twice had its lifespan extended by President Jacob Zuma and must now complete its work, publicly at least, by April 30 and submit a report to the President no less than six months later.