Witness Claims He has Not Received Permission to Testify
A key witness in the public hearings into South Africa's arms deal on Sunday night said he had not yet received "signed" ministerial authorisation allowing him to testify in Monday's hearings.
Witness Richard Young - managing director of Communications Computer Intelligence Integration (CCII) Systems - was expected 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.
Young claims his company was named the preferred supplier of these systems.
His appearance was postponed last week after Public Protector Selby Baqwa, chairman of the presiding panel, ruled that he required permission from Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota to testify.
This was required to ensure that his evidence would not compromise state security, Baqwa said.
Last Monday Lekota ruled that the witness only testify if he refrained from referring to confidential and classified documents.
Speaking to Sapa on Sunday night, Young said: "My legal representatives have not received any ministerial authorisation in terms of section 11A of the Armscor Act.
"On Friday afternoon I received an unsigned document stating authorisation in terms of this Act. I do not recall now who it was sent from, either an official from the defence ministry or the state attorney's office. I am therefore still awaiting signed authorisation from the relevant department."
Responding to Young's comments, Baqwa's spokeswoman Nicolette Teichmann said: "I cannot speak in any technical terms, but the clauses of the agreement reached on August 14 following our last session, Young had to provide the defence minister with statements of his evidence.
"The evidence included what he testify on and in terms of defence act he would have to get permission from minister to testify also.
After receiving this, Young received ministerial consent."
"I am certain that he (Young) received full authorisation."
Teichmann said she was unaware of "any unsigned document" which was sent to Young on Friday: "As far as we are concerned, we expect Young to testify on Monday. Unless he is talking about some other documents he claims to have received Young has full authorisation to attend Monday's hearings."
"Young is the only complainant in this matter who claims to have suffered prejudice and we have gone out of our way to accommodate him," she said.
Earlier on Sunday, the public prosecutor's office said the public hearings would resume on Monday morning, despite indications by Young that he would only be willing to attend on Tuesday,
In an email to Young that was forwarded to Sapa on Sunday, Baqwa said postponing the hearing would inconvenience all other parties involved in the matter.
"To postpone the proceedings to Tuesday would inconvenience all the other parties involved without any justification. You are hereby advised that the public phase of the investigation will resume on August 27 with or without Dr Young."
Teichmann said: "Young did indicate to us last week that he may not appear at the hearings but we reached an agreement with his (Young's) legal representatives last week. We are therefore expecting him to testify at the hearings on Monday."
"As far as we are concerned, we have gone out of our way to accommodate him and cannot postpone the hearings any further," she said.
Young maintains CCII was named preferred supplier of the systems which 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.
With acknowledgements to Sapa.