Arms Witness Wants to Testify Freely
Hannes de Wet
A 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 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 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 Defence Minister Mosiuoa 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 stuff."
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 acknowledgements to Sapa.