Publication: The Witness Issued: Date: 2013-01-18 Reporter: Maryna Lamprecht

Arms deal witness has second thoughts



The Witness

Date 2013-01-18
Reporter Maryna Lamprecht
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The Seriti Commission’s investigation into the arms deal is in jeopardy, with a key witness saying he doesn’t know if he can trust it.

Dr Richard Young, one of the unsuccessful bidders for an arms deal contract, who was set down to testify in March, told sister paper Beeld yesterday he was not prepared to testify before a commission whose integrity has been questioned.

“It is difficult enough to be a whistleblower, but when the judge [chair Willie Seriti] cannot be trusted, I cannot testify. I was concerned from the outset, and now to hear this, I don’t trust these people.”

The integrity of the commission was questioned by senior investigator Norman Moabi in his letter of resignation.

He claimed the commission was driven by a “second agenda”, was manipulating information and could not be trusted to uncover the truth about the arms deal.

Young possesses sensitive, confidential documents, which he now believes he cannot reveal to the commission. “It could mean I lay myself open …” he said.

The Seriti Commission was set up in 2011 by President Jacob Zuma to fully investigate the arms deal, which has long been dogged by allegations of corruption.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said yesterday the presidency was not planning to act on the basis of Moabi’s allegations.

“It looks like a question between the employee and the commission. We are not going to micro-manage the commission*1. It is an independent commission,” he said.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said minister Jeff Radebe was aware of the allegations, but believed it was an issue the commission must resolve.

Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne, who is also set to testify, said Moabi’s allegations were worrying and pointed to a cover-up.

“It is necessary for the commission to re-establish its credibility,” he said yesterday.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier, who is also a witness, said the commission must explain what is going on.

Advocate Paul Hoffman, director of the Southern African Accountability Institute, has also been asked to testify.

He said that although Seriti’s integrity was under suspicion, it didn’t mean the whole commission should be written off.

“Seriti must give a thorough explanation. He is undermining the commission’s credibility.”

Lawson Naidoo, a spokesperson for constitutional watchdog Casac, said the commission’s work was the subject of enormous public interest.

“We certainly hope that the commission … does its work in an unbiased and thorough manner so we can find out what really happened in the arms deal.”

Commission spokesperson William Baloyi said previously that Moabi’s allegations were fabrications and that the commission has nothing to hide. He could not be reached yesterday for further comment.

With acknowledgement to Maryna Lamprecht and The Witness.

*1       Micro-managing the commission to achieve a certain result has been and is what it's all about.

At least we enter into the valley of credibility destruction with our eyes wide shut, if not with a rod and a staff for comfort.