With barely a few hours left before the Tuesday midnight deadline for submissions to be delivered to the arms deal commission, only seven had been received. They included submissions from retired banker Terry Crawford-Browne, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and arms deal author Paul Holden.
In a twist of events, defence contractor Richard Young - the man whose affidavit formed part of Crawford-Browne's successful constitutional bid, which forced President Jacob Zuma to establish a commission of inquiry into the deal - has at the eleventh hour opted to rather be subpoenaed than forward a submission.
"After careful consideration I've decided not to make any submissions. There are a number of issues I have with the [Judge Willie] Seriti commission. The terms of reference do not necessarily provide for the release of a final report, which means I could spend six months giving evidence, naming parties, and it could never come out," he says.
Young is also concerned that Zuma himself will decide whether or not the report is made public.
"And no protection or legal support is offered to people giving evidence.
"If they want me, it'll have to be on my own terms."
While Crawford-Browne shares Young's scepticism, he's decided to make his submission, with one caveat.
"I'd like my submission to be made public, so I've written to the commission requesting to have my wish certified," says Crawford-Brown.
Last month the FM (Features June 8) reported that under the regulations which govern the commission any document submitted or destined to be submitted could not be made public without the written permission of Seriti, and that the failure to adhere to this regulation would result in a fine or imprisonment for up to six months.
As the commission moves on with its work, its relationship with Zuma has come under some scrutiny. Earlier this month he met senior members of the commission, including Seriti. Commission spokesman William Baloyi refused to provide details on the contents of the meeting, saying it formed part of the commission's first "six-monthly reports".
At the announcement of the commission's terms of reference in October last year, justice & constitutional development minister Jeff Radebe said the commission would submit "interim reports and recommendations to the president from time to time and at least every six months prior to the finalisation of its report".
However, because of allegations that Zuma is linked to the arms deal and has committed to testifying before the commission, De Lille, among others, has questioned the private nature of the commission's meetings with the president, raising questions about the commission's credibility.
"There's definitely a conflict of interest. In my view a judicial commission of inquiry should not only be independent but also be seen to be independent. Given the president's involvement in the whole arms deal saga his interaction with the commission needs to be assessed," says De Lille.
University of Cape Town law professor Pierre de Vos says: "Legally, given that it's the president who appointed the commission, it would be difficult for people to find fault with him meeting its members. It's more an issue of credibility. If I were the president I would give an undertaking that I would not insist on seeing a draft report, and that once finalised the report would be made public. In that way he would be insulated from suspicion."
Seriti and a team of investigators visited England and Germany in June in connection with the inquiry. Though the commission refused to provide additional information, letters seeking mutual legal assistance from a number of other countries have apparently been requested.
While the deadline for submissions has closed and according to Baloyi was not to be "extended", the chairman retains the discretion to accept late submissions. Following the submission deadline, the commission says, Baloyi will be "studying the submissions and other documentation received from various people and institutions and will be conducting further investigations to gather more information".
The process will be private, but a public hearing will more than likely begin early next year.
At the time of writing the presidency had not replied to our repeated requests for comment.
With acknowledgement to Lindo Xulu and Financial Mail.
What is the name of
the process where alot of effort is applied, but
the proceeds thereof spllled upon the ground?
The Zuma/Maharaj fishing commission?