Claims of prejudicial procedures at Seriti Commission


The appearance of retired SA Navy Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman at the Seriti Commission this week has been cited as yet another example of prejudicial procedures.

Kamerman was project officer for Sitron, the acquisition of what was first called corvettes and subsequently became frigates, to allow the SA Navy to regain its blue water capacity as part of the 1998 Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP).

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), representing Andrew Feinstein, Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden, said in a statement it had “effectively been barred again” from participating in the Arms Procurement Commission under the chairmanship of Judge Willie Seriti.
“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.
“It appears to us that the manner in which Kamerman has been treated is inconsistent with, and more favourable than, the manner in which our clients have been treated,” LHR said.

The Constitutional watchdog NGO said it was still awaiting documents requested “well over 12 months ago”.
“LHR clients cannot rely on documents in the possession of the Commission because they are not given access to them. Our clients also cannot rely on documents sourced outside the Commission, such as the draft Auditor-General’s report or a report commissioned by German arms company Ferrostaal which details their own involvement in bribe payments of $40-million in the Arms Deal, because the Commission has ruled such documents inadmissible.
“Due to this LHR declined to cross-examine Kamerman and reserved the right to recall him at a future date after these documents had been delivered.
“The request forms part of increasing frustrations around a lack of time to consider statements and documents related to the Seriti Commission of Inquiry. LHR is equally concerned about the lack of access to key documents that are vital to properly prepare cross-examination of witnesses and prepare clients’ statements. These are documents generally unfavourable to witnesses, and not put up by them, their legal teams or evidence leaders in the leading of their evidence.
“A recent example was our inability to cross-examine former public enterprises minister Alec Erwin due to a lack of access to relevant documentation, including the contracts on which the procurement packages were based.
“This lack of access to documents and time is an ongoing and growing concern. For the past year, we have only been given documents at the last minute and been expected to have thoroughly examined them and cross-examine as soon as the witness has completed their testimony.”

LHR has called on Judge Seriti and the entire Commission to put to a stop to efforts that show clear bias and appear intent on limiting the public’s right to know the truth about allegations of corruption in the Arms Deal.