Arms deal commission could take 3 years – Seriti

2012-06-14 11:51
Xolani Mbanjwa
The arms deal commission may need more than the two years it has been allocated, commission chairperson Judge Willie Seriti told the media in Pretoria.

Seriti said he estimated it would take three years for the commission to complete its work.

The commission, tasked with probing possible corruption, fraud and impropriety related to the controversial arms deal is confident that everyone called before the commission, who could include likes of former President Thabo Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma, will not refuse to testify.

Seriti also told the media this morning that everyone who has been approached for information has been cooperative so far.

Asked whether Zuma’s former financial advisor, Shabir Schaik, had been approached, Seriti said: not yet.

Seriti said the commission would call anybody it thought may have information regarding the arms deal which cost taxpayers R29.9 billion in 1999.

“There are limitations and the limitations are obvious. We only subpoena the person we think has information. We will subpoena all those whom we think that they have (information) irrespective of who he is,” Seriti said.

The commission would not be limited in the information that it requires, including any information that may be classified.

“We must work (through) hundreds of boxes containing documents. The volume seems to be quite big. Nobody has told us that the info is classified,” said Seriti.

He dismissed claims that the commission was a mere smokescreen and that it’s findings may be watered down.

“I know there are people who think this is a smokescreen but we don’t think so,” said Seriti.

He would not elaborate on why he removed advocates Vas Soni and Sthembiso Mdladla but said he received information which made their involvement in the commission “inappropriate”.

The commission had received requests from the public to extend its July 30 deadline for submissions and they will look into the requests, Seriti said.

“If for any reason a person is unable to meet the deadline they can request and we may extend the deadline,” said Seriti.

Letters have been written to various departments thought to have information in connection with the arms deal. Those included the departments of treasury, defence and state arms manufacturer Denel and Armscor.

Letters had also been sent to financial institutions involved in payments in the arms deal but Seriti would not name them.

Seriti said that the commission had appointed attorney Pretty Luphondo as the secretary to the commission along with ten senior silks to be evidence leaders for the commission.

Luphondo replaces Mvuseni Ngubane who died after he was appointed last year.

Seriti reassured the public that with the appointment of the evidence leaders and the secretary, the commission will be able to start its work soon.

He further reassured the public that the commission would not be hamstrung by anything, adding that the commission now had permanent offices in Pretoria.

Advocates Tayob Aboobaker, Tshepo Sibeko, Barry Skinner, Simmy Lebala, Moss Mphaga, Phumlani Ngobese, Mhlape Sello, Carol Sibiya, S’busiso Zondi and Matshego Ramagaga – all senior counsel – are the evidence leaders appointed by the commission.

He wouldn’t speculate on what kind of recommendations the commission would make to Zuma