With eight weeks before public hearings into the multi-billion Rand arms deal start, Arms Procurement Commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti says he is concentrating on the job in hand and will not respond to further questions regarding allegations made by a Pretoria attorney who resigned, apparently because of the way the Commission operates.
“I have no intention of engaging in a public/media spat with Norman Moabi,” Seriti said in a statement. He added that calls for him (Seriti) to undergo a lie detector test were “no substitute for facts”.
When news of Moabi’s resignation and its alleged reasons broke, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP David Maynier said Seriti would have to restore public confidence in the Commission. (Maynier was called as a witness in the first round of public hearings set for March 4 to May 31.)
This follows Moabi’s allegations of a second agenda “presumably to cover up the truth about the arms deal by attempting to discredit certain witnesses”. This was denied by Seriti and the Commission’s evidence leaders in public statements.
Seriti has since appealed to both the media and the general public to give his Commission “space to focus on preparations for the upcoming public hearings.”
“Save for exceptional cases the hearings will be open to the public and provide an appropriate opportunity and observe and judge for themselves whether the Commission is true to its mandate or not,” he said.
Others on the witness list for the March and May Pretoria hearings include Patricia de Lille, former Independent Democrats MP and now DA mayor of Cape Town, widely acknowledged as the original whistle blower on corruption allegations, and Terry Crawford-Browne, long an outspoken opponent of the deal and its offsets, both defence and non-defence.
The commission was appointed by President Zuma in October two years ago to investigate and report on allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity surrounding South Africa’s purchase of military equipment including Gripen fighters and stealth frigates built in Germany.
Other military equipment now in service with the SA National Defence Force acquired, as part of the single biggest purchase order placed by government since 1994, are Type 209 diesel-electric submarines, Hawk Mk120 lead-in fighter trainers and Agusta A109 light utility helicopters.