Publication: Issued: Johannesburg Date: 2001-08-14 Reporter: Editor:

Veto of Witness Testimony Condemned


Issued  Johannesburg
Date 2001-08-14
Reporter Sapa


The Public Protector's order on Tuesday that a witness in the arms deal hearing must submit his testimony to the defence minister for possible veto was strongly condemned by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa on Tuesday.

Holomisa also called for the Public Protector to resign as chairman of the investigation immediately.

On Tuesday the hearing in Pretoria was postponed until August 27 and witness Richard Young, who was to testify about alleged irregularities in the awarding of a tender for information management systems, instructed to make his testimony available to Mosiuoa Lekota.

Young is managing director of Communications, Computers and Intelligence Integration Systems (CCII).

After seeing the documents, Lekota will then have to give his consent for Young to testify on issues that it is claimed could possibly affect military security.

Holomisa said: "We condemn this decision -- Selby Baqwa has brought the entire investigation into disrepute. He has confirmed our earlier fears and reservations that he and the other two agencies involved are working to please their paymasters."

"He must therefore resign as chairman of this investigation with immediate effect. We cannot reconcile his judgement and the decision to effect a potential witness like that by submitting his testimony to the defence minister who will decide which things can be said in the investigation.

"The ministry of defence is the subject of an investigation itself."

The UDM was also "extremely concerned" that the arms deal public hearings would continue despite Young's request to retain the right to sue the government.

"The UDM believes that forcing Mr Young to testify on condition of a civil case against the government is a blatant attempt at witness intimidation.

"It would constitute a gross injustice to deprive Mr Young of his legal rights. This is yet another example of behaviour which brings the neutrality and independence of the investigators into disrepute."

Holomisa added that instead of being intimidated by being forced to submit his testimony for veto, Young's testimony could have been taken in-camera.

With acknowledgements to Sapa.