Mbeki, two former and one serving Minister called for Arms Deal Commission hearings


Not one of the 12 witnesses originally called for the delayed first round of public hearings by the Arms Procurement Commission will appear when the hearings start on August 5.

Instead, chairman Judge Willie Seriti and his evidence leaders now want 24 witnesses including former president Thabo Mbeki, deputy president at the time of the Strategic Defence Acquisition Programme; Mosiuoa Lekota and Ronnie Kasrils, Defence Minister and Deputy at the same time; as well Alec Erwin, who held the Trade and Industry and Public Enterprises portfolios, and Trevor Manuel, currently Minister in the Presidency and former Finance Minister, to appear and explain the rationale behind the defence equipment acquisition.

Four senior Navy officers, including current Chief Naval Staff Rear Admiral Rusty Higgs and Flag Officer Fleet Rear Admiral Phillip Schoultz; as well as six senior SA Air Force officers including current Deputy Chief Major General Jerry Malinga, are also on the list released by the Commission.

At this stage no witnesses from state arms procurement agency Armscor are on the list of 24 but commission spokesman William Baloyi said “it will be supplemented to reflect the names of Armscor witnesses who will testify as part of the Department of Defence”.

Four senior staffers from the Department of Trade and Industry will, at some stage during the public hearings, testify as will four from the National Treasury.

Baloyi emphasised the hearings, to be held in the Tshwane metro council chambers, will be conducted in phases.
“The list released contains only witnesses to be called in the first phase. A separate list of witnesses to be called in the next phase will be issued at an appropriate time.
“Some witnesses may be recalled at a later stage when the Commission deals with its terms of reference relating to allegations of impropriety, fraud and corruption.”

Included on the first witness list was Patricia de Lille, former ID MP and now Cape Town mayor who is widely seen as the original whistleblower on the multi-billion Rand arms deal; long-time anti-arms deal campaigner and retired banker Terry Crawford-Browne; former chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) Andrew Feinstein and Democratic Alliance shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier; Fana Hlongwane, a facilitator for former Defence Minister Joe Modise, and Richard Young, managing director of C2I2. The other first called witnesses were Paul Hoffman, Gavin Woods, Paul Holden, Raenette Taljaard, Major General Hans Meiring and Colonel Johan du Plooy.

The hearings are set to last until January 3 next year. This is after the Commission’s time mandate has expired and Baloyi said that continuation of the hearings beyond November this year “will be subject to a grant of extension by the President”.

President Zuma established the Arms Procurement Commission in November 2011and gave it a two-year lifespan. In March the commission indicated it would need more time and money to complete its work.

The Arms Deal saw the SAAF and Navy obtain new front-line equipment comprising 26 Gripen fighters, 24 Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter trainers, 30 A109 Light Utility Helicopters and four Westland Super Lynx maritime helicopters. The Navy regained its blue water capability with four Valour class frigates and three Type 209 diesel-electric submarines.