Arms Witness wants to Testify Freely
key witness in the public hearings into South Africa's arms deal notified the
state on Tuesday that he would only testify if he could do so unhindered.
Richard Young, the
managing director of Communications Computer Intelligence Integration (CCII)
Systems, told Sapa that he sent a letter to this effect to the state attorney
earlier in the day.
This came after
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota ruled that Young could only testify if he
refrained from referring to confidential and classified documents.
Young said from Cape
Town: "Until I have unfettered and unqualified authorisation to testify
freely, I am not going to give evidence."
Public Protector Selby
Baqwa's office said it had no objection to the conditions imposed on Young.
"As far as we are concerned, the limitation will not impede on the
proceedings," spokeswoman Nicolette Teichmann said in Pretoria.
Young is to testify
about alleged irregularities in the awarding of a R40-million tender for
information management systems used in the four Corvettes South Africa bought as
part of the arms package. He claims that his company was named the preferred
supplier of these systems.
The tender was later
awarded to French company Detexis. It is the sister company of African Defence
Systems, of which arms acquisition head Chippy Shaik's brother Schabir is a
shareholder and director.
Young is scheduled to
give evidence next week. His appearance was postponed last week after Baqwa,
chairman of the presiding panel, ruled that Young needed permission from
Lekota to testify. This was required to ensure that his evidence would not
compromise state security, Baqwa said.
Lekota gave Young the
conditional go-ahead on Monday. The ban on references to confidential or
classified documents was unreasonable, Young said on Tuesday.
"This is a heavy
qualification which places wide restrictions on me."
He said there was no
real need for him to testify in public. "I have given all my evidence to
the forensic experts investigating the arms deal. But they could not guarantee
that their report will see the light of day."
Young said his quest
was to achieve relief for the contracts he had lost. Testifying in public was
one possible avenue. If this did not materialise, he would explore other options
that might include legal action.
Asked if he had a
chance of getting redress, Young said: "Absolutely. This is serious
Teichmann said Bawqa's
office had by Tuesday not received any notice from Young that he intended
withdrawing from the public hearings. "As far as we are concerned, he will
testify when the proceedings resume on Monday," she said.
With acknowledgment to Sapa and Business Day.