President Jacob Zuma has moved swiftly to get the Arms Procurement Commission back on track after it was partially derailed only two hours into the first day of public hearings.
He has decided not to replace Justice Francis Legodi, who resigned days before the Pretoria public hearings were due to start for apparent “personal reasons”.
“The President has reconstituted the Commission and it is now composed of Justice Willie Seriti as its chairperson and Justice Thekiso Musi as a member. He remains confident the Commission will successful complete its work,” a statement issued by Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
The public hearings have been adjourned until August 19 to deal with de-classification of documents, requested by Michael Kuper SC, on behalf of the Department of Defence (DoD).
Seriti said during his opening remarks the issue of classification (of defence documentation relating to the acquisition of new front-line equipment for the SA Air Force and SA Navy) was always going to be “a nightmare”.
“We believe that if all the legal representatives of the DoD require a period of two weeks within which they will deal with the question of de-classification of documents, this might be a helpful suggestion,” he said.
This issue precluded any testimony being presented by the first witnesses and led to the early adjournment of the hearings, originally set to start in March.
Among those set to appear before the Commission between August 6 and September 27 are Rear Admiral AG Green, Rear Admiral Phillip Schoultz, Rear Admiral Rusty Higgs, Captain (SAN) JD Jordan and Rear Admiral (JG) DJ Christian. Witnesses from the SAAF include Major General Jerry Malinga and Brigadier General John Bayne. Still to be named witnesses from Armscor are also among the first tranche to appear.
Maharaj indicated last week Zuma was giving “consideration” to extending the lifespan of the Commission following a request to do so from its chairman. When established in November 2011 it was given two years to complete its work and it now appears this will not happen with the current round of public hearings stretching into late January next year.