Witness dates set for phase two of Seriti Commission


Arms Deal Commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti has named13 witnesses to appear before him in phase two of the commission’s public hearings.

Richard Young, an outspoken opponent of particularly the combat suite decisions for the Navy’s Valour class frigates, is set to appear in the Tshwane metro council chamber on Monday, July 21, as the first phase two witness.

He will be followed by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, widely acknowledged as the original whistle-blower in the 1998 multi-billion arms purchase that saw the SA Air Force and SA Navy re-equipped to the tune of R48 billion.

Others on the phase two list are Democratic Alliance (DA) MP David Maynier, former SCOPA chairman Gavin Woods, former DA MP Raenette Taljaard as well as Andrew Feinstein, Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren, whose investigations into the arms deal have been published. Terry Crawford-Browne, probably the most vocal of the anti-arms deal campaigners, has been given one day – August 7 – on the witness stand.

Also on the list are Shamin “Chippy” Shaik, Armscor acquisition director at the time of the arms deal, and Fana Hlongwane, advisor to the then Defence Minister, Joe Modise.

The second phase of witness evidence is currently set to be completed by mid-August with senior SA National Defence Force (SANDF) officers Johan du Plooy and General Hans Meiring the final witnesses.

The first round of evidence, characterised by numerous delays, has primarily been to explain the rationale behind the decisions taken to purchase Gripen fighter jets, Hawk Lead-In Fighter Trainers, Meko frigates, now in service as Valour Class vessels, and Type 209 diesel-electric submarines. A later part of the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) saw four Super Lynx maritime helicopters acquired for use aboard the frigates.

Former Cabinet Ministers Alec Erwin, Ronnie Kasrils, Mosiuoa Lekota and Trevor Manuel have also testified before the Commission along with former defence secretary Pierre Steyn and a number of now retired senior Air Force and Navy officers. Former president Thabo Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time of the acquisition and chaired the Cabinet committee tasked with the SDPP, has yet to appear before the Commission.