Arms Deal Commission witness list to be revised

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The year-long extension given to the Arms Procurement Commission has been welcomed by its chairman, Judge Willie Seriti.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi said the extension would enable the current list of subpoenaed witnesses in the first round of public hearings to appear.
“The witness list will be revised in terms of when certain witnesses will appear. This is because of unforeseen problems as well as requests for postponements by the legal representatives of certain witnesses,” he said.

The unforeseen problems include power failures in the Tshwane metro council chambers the Commission is using for public hearings as well as flooding caused by a broken water pipe.

Delays in witness appearances have been put down to the number of witnesses named by State procurement agency Armscor.
“In essence the delays and extra witnesses (no exact number of Armscor witnesses was given when the second witness list was made public in July) have meant more time on the stand per witness. Eight Armscor personnel have, are currently or will still give evidence before Judge Seriti,” Baloyi said.

Another delay in the public hearings arose from the need to de-classify certain documentation relating to the acquisition of prime mission equipment for the SA Air Force and Navy in 1998.

Baloyi said all the witnesses served with subpoenas would still appear in the first round of public hearings scheduled to finish at the end of January. Former President Thabo Mbeki as well as former Cabinet Ministers Trevor Manuel, Alec Erwin, Mosuia Lekota and Ronnie Kasrils are among those on the list.

To date the Commission has heard from three serving Navy officers (Rear Admirals Alan Green, Rusty Higgs and Philip Schoultz) as well as SA Air Force generals Jerry Malinga and John Bayne. Current SA National Defence Force Chief, General Solly Shoke, was called as an additional witness as was former SA Air Force Chief, Lieutenant General (ret) Willem Hechter.

Baloyi said he was “not in a position” to give any indication of what would happen once the first round of public hearings had finished.

When the commission was established by President Jacob Zuma in November 2011 it was given two years to complete its investigation and report. One of the prime movers behind the commission is economist Terry Crawford-Browne, a long-time campaigner against the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) that saw the SANDF acquire four frigates, three submarines, four maritime helicopters, 26 Gripen fighters, 24 Hawk Lead-In Fighter Trainers and 30 Agusta A109 Light Utility Helicopters. He was named on the first witness list, now discarded, which included Patricia de Lille, the original Arms Deal whistleblower.