Arms deal commission postponed

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The Arms Procurement Commission tasked with investigating irregularities into the 1999 arms deal has postponed hearings to Thursday, when former defence secretary Pierre Steyn will be cross-examined.

The commission was set to resume today with the testimony of former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, who was deputy defence minister at the time of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package. However, the commission said that the timetable has been changed due to the need to conclude cross-examination of General Steyn before Kasrils and Mosiuoa Lekota are called, “in order to minimise the risk of them having to be recalled to appear again.”

Commission spokesman William Baloyi said that Steyn will be cross-examined first so that those likely to be implicated have time to prepare their responses.
“The Commission wishes to tender its apologies for any inconvenience caused to all the interested parties by this change,” the commission, led by Judge Willie Seriti, said.

Steyn is set to be cross-examined on Thursday, followed by Kasrils on Friday. Kasrils will be the second former minister to testify after Alec Erwin went on the stand in February. Chief arms deal negotiator Jayendra Naidoo will appear on June 9, followed by former defence minister Lekota on June 10. Trevor Manuel, finance minister at the time of the arms deal, will appear on June 11 and 12. The date of former President Thabo Mbeki’s appearance is still to be confirmed.

The Seriti commission adjourned on May 28 after testimony by Admiral Jonathan Kamerman, who was in charge of the acquisition of four frigates for the South African Navy. He denied there were any irregularities in the contracting phase of the project and that he was bribed by the German Frigate Consortium, which was the preferred bidder.

Kamerman also said that it was not suspicious that he joined ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems several months after his 2006 retirement from the Navy. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) was part of the Consortium.



Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), representing Andrew Feinstein, Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden, said it had been prevented from cross examining Kamerman.
“LHR’s request to reserve the right to cross-examine Kamerman was ignored by the Commission when no ruling was made. Following the completion of his evidence, LHR was asked whether it intended to cross-examine him. LHR explained that severe time restrictions for the consideration of new statements and evidence made it impossible to effectively cross-examine. Being given one day to consider Kamerman’s 765-page bundle of documentary evidence, make preparing and conducting a proper cross-examination impossible,” LHR said.