SDPP suppliers on the Seriti stand


With the April 30 deadline for the completion of public hearings moving ever closer, the Seriti Commission is in the final stretch as representatives from some of the defence companies that supplied hardware to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) testify.

First of these was ThyssenKrupp Maritime Systems whose senior house attorney, Klaus Wiercimok, this week told the Commission it was untrue the price of the frigates acquired by the SA Navy was inflated to pay commissions to middlemen.

According to the SABC, he told Judge Willie Seriti that a German probe had cleared all implicated, including South African politicians, of wrongdoing in the 1998 Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPP), better known as the Arms Deal.
“These allegations have been the subject or object of the state prosecutors’ office in Germany starting in 2006. This obviously was supported by a lot of interest here in this country. I can only say that no evidence supporting the allegations, that any sort of corruptive practices have taken place in South Africa, was ever found,” he said.

The SABC reported that Wiercimok addressed allegations that former chief of acquisition for the defence department, Chippy Shaik, received millions of dollars from the company.
“I can tell you this is not true. The GFC (German Frigate Consortium) never authorised such payments. This, at the end, was also a subject of the investigation by the state prosecutors’ office in Germany. And we also looked into it ourselves. No such payments were authorised.”

The Commission has recessed until Friday when representatives from Swedish company, Saab, and the supplier of the A-109 helicopters, Agusta, now AgustaWestland, are set to testify. A statement issued by the Commission notes: “The companies that will testify are Saab and Agusta. They supplied Gripens, advanced light fighter aircrafts (sic) and light utility helicopters respectively”.

The final round of public hearings started with Richard Young spending five days on the stand earlier this month. He completed his testimony and his cross examination will start on Monday, March 23. His company was an unsuccessful bidder for the combat suites to be fitted to the Valour Class frigates and he has been an outspoken critic of the SDPPs.

On completion of testimony by, at least some of the successful SDPP bidders, the last two witnesses, former Hawks investigator Colonel Johan du Plooy, and Major General Hans Meiring, former head of the Hawks Commercial Crime Unit, will give evidence.

They are scheduled to finish giving evidence on March 25 after which the commission will go behind closed doors in preparation for closing arguments between April 13 and 24.

These are expected to cover aspects such as the rationale and utilisation of equipment acquired, job opportunities created by the SDPP as well as possible corruption and wrongdoing and possible cancellation of the contracts. The Commission has not yet indicated whether this stage of its work will be open to the public.