Seriti Commission hit by withdrawal of three witnesses


The decision by three witnesses to “withdraw” from the Seriti Commission is being “considered” by the Presidentially appointed commission investigating the multi-billion Rand arms deal.

Andrew Feinstein, Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren on Thursday said they had decided “with great disappointment” to withdraw all participation in the Commission.
“The appointment of the Commission raised great expectations that the truth would finally be established and this would challenge the interests of politicians, middlemen and large corporations in one of the most corrupt industries in the world. The Commission had the prospect of serving not only South Africans but all people across the globe campaigning against the devastating impact of corruption in the arms trade.
“The Commission has failed on both accounts. It has missed a historic opportunity to support the struggle for transparency and accountability of the powerful,” the three said in a joint statement released in Pretoria.

They gave key reasons for withdrawing including that chairman, Judge Willie Seriti, was “not interested in hearing evidence from witnesses about document they had not themselves written” and that witnesses should only speak to corruption allegations of which they have personal knowledge. Failure to admit what they term key documents as well as “consistent failure” to provide witnesses with access to documents and suggestions that the Commission “does not intend to properly investigate” the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages (SDPP) are also cited as reasons for not taking any further part in the Commission.

Responding Commission spokesman William Baloyi said: “It appears to the Commission these witnesses do not have evidence to put before it and want the Commission to help them search for possible proof for the allegations of wrongdoing in the arms procurement process.
“If their approach is to be followed this Commission will still be here in 2016 and possibly beyond.”

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which has been representing the three at the Seriti Commission, said it “had hoped the Commission would be the opportunity for robust investigation into allegations of corruption, engagement with the full spectrum of people involved, including foreign investigators and a thorough and judicially-led analysis of the mountains of documentary evidence which has pointed to wrong-doing and corruption within government and in the arms industry”.

The public interest legal body said it would continue supporting endeavours by Feinstein, Holden and Van Vuuren to uncover the truth behind the Arms Deal and ensure “wrongdoers are held to account”.