Next round of Arms Deal hearings start on January 20


The Seriti Commission resumes public hearings into allegations of fraud and corruption with regard to the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPP) on Monday, January 20.

This round will run until May 16 Commission spokesman William Baloyi said with Department of Trade and Industry officials the first on the witness stand until February 21.

The names of former Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and current director general Lionel October are on the witness list.

Trade and Industry officials are expected to focus on the offsets component of the multi-billion Rand acquisition, an area of particular concern to those opposing the deal.
“The commission has decided that if such evidence does emerge it will hear it notwithstanding the fact that it does not fall within the terms of reference to be considered in the first phase. This will avoid having to recall witnesses later,” Baloyi told Sapa.

Another, as yet unnamed, number of Armscor witnesses will testify from February 24 and March 20.

Late March to early April has been set aside for Department of Defence witnesses including former minister Mosiuoa Lekota and his deputy Ronnie Kasrils.

The last three weeks of April have been set aside for National Treasury officials to provide evidence.

Former director general Maria Ramos and her husband, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, are set to appear at this time.

Government’s former chief negotiator in the arms deal Jayendra Naidoo will have five days on the Commission’s witness stand, from May 5 to 9 and he will be followed by former president Thabo Mbeki, from May 12 to 16. Mbeki was deputy president at the time of the acquisitions and chaired the Cabinet committee which oversaw the acquisition of fighters, lead-in fighter trainers, light utility and maritime helicopters as well as frigates and submarines for the SA Air Force and SA Navy.

Baloyi said subpoenas had been used and would be served on all witnesses set down to appear in this round of hearings.
“The witness list is not exhaustive and many other witnesses are still to be called.
“The next phase will see witnesses testifying about allegations of impropriety, fraud and corruption and will include the so-called whistleblowers and people implicated in wrongdoing,” he said.

The Commission adjourned public hearings on November 25 last year.

The Commission was originally scheduled to finish its work by November was had its lifespan extended for another year by President Jacob Zuma. It now has until November 30 this year to finish its work and submit a report to the President “no less than six months later” Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said when announcing the extension.