Publication: Mail & Guardian Author: Sarah Evans Date: 2016-01-22

An inquiry of red flags


Publication  Mail & Guardian
Author  Sarah Evans
Date 2016-01-22
Link Mail & Guardian


The arms deal commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, wrapped up its work in June last year after hearing 56 witnesses and receiving masses of documentation since its establishment in November 2011.

The commission had originally been scheduled to complete its work within 12 months of being established.

Seriti said the commission's work had "not been plain sailing'' but that it had managed to overcome many obstacles.

During the course of its work it saw the resignations of' researchers Mokgale Norman Moabi and Kate Painting .,...who both alleged a "second agenda" at the commission, and of commissioner Judge Francis Legodi, on the eve of the start of public hearings. Legodi did not explain his resignation.

Two evidence leaders, Barry Skinner SC and Carol Sibiya, also resigned.

Subsequent leaks showed they had complained that they were not given access to key documents and were prevented from cross-examining witnesses*1.

Several so-called "critics" of the arms deal, including authors Paul Holden, Andrew Feinstein and Hermie van Vuuren, warned that the commission was leaning towards a one-sided narrative.

They subsequently withdrew from participating in it.

Meanwhile, former Cabinet ministers Alec Erwin, Ronnie Kasrils and Trevor Manuel, and former president Thabo Mbeki*2, told the commission the deal was above board, as did weapons manufacturers and the middlemen involved in the deal.

- Sarah Evans

*1*2 Just who was meant to cross-examine them and all the other government witness and equipment suppliers representations, including and mainly legal representatives with no personal knowledge.

A one-sided narrative indeed.

I found it a little harder.

It was a bit like pygmies versus Goliaths playing rugby up the hill of Mount Everest with Satan as the referee and the SABC putting it out on YouTube.

And I was one of them pygmies.