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JUDGE Willie Seriti, the chairman of the Arms Procurement Commission, has broken his silence on claims made in a resignation letter by one of its investigators, denying that it was operating under a secret agenda incompatible with its mandate to uncover the truth.
Yesterday he accused Pretoria lawyer Norman Moabi of making “false allegations to deliberately tarnish the image and credibility of the commission, probably because of a personal grudge he harbours against me based on reasons he has not disclosed”.
Moabi said he preferred not to comment until he had properly considered Judge Seriti’s statement.
Judge Seriti’s response rejected the notion of a secret agenda and the manipulation of evidence and briefs – among the claims by Moabi which have put a question mark over the credibility of the commission, and Judge Seriti in particular.
It was accompanied by a memorandum bearing the names of all 10 independent private legal practitioners – five of them senior counsel – who have accepted briefs to lead evidence. They had “at no time… gained the impression that matters are being hidden from us” and no areas were “off-limits”.
“None of us have had any ‘instructions’ in any form,” it states.
They were all independent legal practitioners in private practice.
In his statement, Judge Seriti said while he was primarily the target of Moabi’s criticism “the whole commission is tarnished”.
Moabi claimed that in his “perception”, a hidden agenda was at play, based on the manipulation of information before the commission, including “clandestine preparations” of documents and briefs and “unknown person(s)” dictating what information should go into them, and the designation of witnesses to evidence leaders.
He accused Judge Seriti of a “total obsession with the control of the flow of information to and from the commission” and also alleged nepotism. Judge Seriti did not respond to that allegation. He defended his control over information as consistent with the regulations governing the commission but said the mass of documents received were “accessible to all the legal professional staff”.
Judge Seriti said he did not recall making the comments quoted by Moabi as supporting evidence of a hidden agenda. These had contained an implied threat that witnesses once “dealt with” would no longer “make noises” in the media and referred to submissions by arms deal inquiry campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne as being based on “hearsay”.
Minutes of a strategy meeting on November 6 referred to hearsay evidence, however. Crawford-Browne had “inundated” the commission with e-mails questioning how it was conducting its business and had also written articles in “similar vein”, Judge Seriti said.
“I may have expressed the sentiment that he may stop the negative comments once he has given his evidence,” he said.