Arms deal witness list queried

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iol news pic terry crawford brown

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Cape Town 25-02-08 Terry Crawford Brown arrives at Cape High Court. Picture Brenton Geach

Johannesburg - There are “glaring omissions” from the list of witnesses to be called at next year's Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal, arms deal activist Terry Crawford Browne said on Wednesday.

“May I respectfully suggest that there are some glaring omissions from that list, including John Bredenkamp, Janet Charter (wife of Richard Charter), Thabo Mbeki, Alec Erwin and Trevor Manuel,” Crawford-Browne said in a supplementary submission to the commission.

He also wanted to know why the companies BAE, Saab and the German frigate and submarine consortia were not being called.

He wanted to know why the commission rejected his request to subpoena former British prime minister Tony Blair when he was in South Africa in August 2012, arguing that the commission “forfeited an opportunity to interrogate and expose the involvement” of successive British governments, banks, arms companies and other syndicates by doing so.

Crawford-Browne believed the “three surviving ministers” - then deputy president Mbeki, then minister of trade and industry Erwin and then minister of finance Manuel, who comprised the Cabinet sub-committee that decided on the acquisitions, should be the first witnesses to testify at the public hearings.

He wanted Seriti to decide by March 2013 whether the arms deal was unconstitutional in terms of section 217 (1) and thus illegal.

Crawford-Browne is seeking to have the arms deal cancelled, and the money paid back to South Africa.

David Maynier, Patricia de Lille, Major General Hans Meiring, Colonel Johan du Plooy, Paul Hoffman, Crawford-Browne, Dr Richard Young, Gavin Woods, Andrew Woods, Andrew Feinstein, Paul Holden, Raenette Taljaard, and Fana Hlongwane were announced as witnesses on November 24.

Maynier is a Democratic Alliance MP and Du Plooy and Meiring are part of the Hawks.

Crawford-Browne, a retired banker, has spent years trying to get an independent inquiry into the arms deal established.

Feinstein is a former ANC MP.

Public hearings are to be held at the council chambers at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria between March 4 and May 31.

Seriti would be assisted by judges Willem van der Merwe and Francis Legodi.

The deal, which was initially estimated to cost R43 million, has dogged South Africa's politics since it was signed in 1999, after then Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille raised allegations of corruption in Parliament.

Zuma himself was once charged with corruption after his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who had a tender to supply part of the requirements, was found to have facilitated a bribe for him from a French arms company.

The charges against Zuma were later dropped. - Sapa


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