First round of Arms Deal Commission public hearings almost done


As the Seriti Commission nears the end of the first round of public hearings attention is turning to round number two with Shamin “Chippy” Shaik and Fana Hlongwane set to appear.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi confirmed there had already been contact with the legal representatives of Shaik, the former senior Armscor acquisition official, and Hlongwane, advisor to Joe Modise who was Defence Minister at the time of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP).

Others expected to be called for the next round of hearings, the commencement date of which has yet to be finalised by Judge Willie Seriti, include current Cape Town mayor, Patricia de Lille, widely acknowledged as the original whistle blower on suspected bribery and corruption in the multi-billion Rand arms deal.

Baloyi said the next list of witnesses would be announced once the current round of public hearings is completed. The final witness, former president Thabo Mbeki, was due to appear this week but was granted compassionate leave of absence due to the death of his mother.

Former Cabinet Ministers Alec Erwin, Ronnie Kasrils, Mosiuoa Lekota and Trevor Manuel have also testified before the Commission along with former defence secretary Pierre Meiring and a number of now retired senior Air Force and Navy officers.

Indications are the second round of public hearings will start before the end of July leaving Seriti and his co-commissioner five months to meet the extended deadline of November this year to complete their work. The commission has six months after this to finalise its report and present it to President Jacob Zuma. There is, as yet, no indication of whether the final report will become a document in the public domain.

The first phase of public hearings have dealt with the reasons for the acquisition of Gripen fighters Hawk lead-in fighter trainers, Meko frigates (now in service as the Valour Class) and Type 209 diesel-electric submarines for the air force and navy. A later part of the SDPP saw four Super Lynx maritime helicopters acquired. The second phase is expected to concentrate on fraud and corruption allegations.