Seriti Commission hears front line defence equipment is properly utilised


A Seriti Commission evidence leader has said as part of a closing submission to the Arms Procurement Commission public hearings that no evidence has been led to show front line military equipment acquired in 1998 is not properly utilised.

Analysing evidence given by senior air force and navy officers as well as opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier, Advocate Simmy Lebala said it showed the equipment was being used correctly.

Gauteng Afrikaans daily Beeld reported him as saying Maynier could provide no proof of allegations that the Hawk and Gripen jets acquired by the SA Air Force to replace the Impalas and Cheetahs were not being used.

Two of the Commission’s other evidence leaders, advocates Tshepo Sibeko and Mahlape Sello, spoke about the corruption aspect of the Arms Deal in the closing submissions.

The paper reports they “only referred to the elephant in the room (Schabir Schaik) in a foot note”. They also found there was currently no evidence of a full and independent audit to establish whether government had met its obligations as far as industrial offsets specified by the Arms Deal were concerned.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald reacted to the utilisation aspect telling the paper it was “totally untrue”.
“There are Gripens which have been put into storage and the same applies to other equipment acquired as part of the Arms Deal,” he said, pointing out the Navy’s Type 209 submarines spent more time in dry dock than at sea.

Military analyst Helmoed Heitman told the paper he agreed with the submission that the equipment was being properly utilised.
“It is being used and properly and it was necessary for the SA National Defence Force for get new equipment because its weaponry was old and outdated,” he said, adding the equipment was being utilised “as far as is possible in terms of the financial situation the SANDF finds itself in”.

He maintains market related prices were paid for the equipment which included frigates, submarines, fighter jets, lead-in fighter trainers, light utility and maritime helicopters.
“We paid the same or less than other countries which bought similar equipment. As an example, South Africa paid less for the Hawk jet trainer than Australia and Canada. The same applies to the Gripens and submarines. If inflation is taken into account South Africa paid the right prices,” the paper reported him as saying.

The commission, under the chairmanship of Judge Willie Seriti, will hear closing submissions until Monday June 29 after which it will start compiling its report for President Jacob Zuma. The commission has, since the beginning of this week, set aside time for evidence leaders, interested parties, Armscor, the departments of Defence and Trade and Industry as well as National Treasury and arms suppliers to provide it with closing submissions.