Arms inquiry outcome not 'cajoled'

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willy seriti INLSA Judge Willie Seriti. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - No member of the Seriti commission of inquiry received instructions or were cajoled into producing a particular outcome, commission spokesman William Baloyi said on Tuesday.

“None of us have had any instructions in any form,” he said in a statement.

“We as evidence leaders have never at any time been cajoled to have a particular outcome...”

Baloyi said none of its members were “employed by the arms commission” and none were dictated to or deprived of their own views.

He was responding to allegations that the commission, which is probing the arms deal, was not being transparent and was concealing a “second agenda”.

Norman Moabi, a lawyer and former acting judge from Pretoria, wrote in a letter that he was resigning because of interference and because he had lost faith in the commission's work.

According to Moabi, Seriti ruled the commission with an iron fist and facts were manipulated or withheld from commissioners. Contributions from commissioners who did not pursue the “second agenda” were frequently ignored.

Hearings were expected to start in March.

Baloyi said Seriti and the commissioners were respected judges.

“We the evidence leaders are all independent legal practitioners in private practice, and are not employed by the arms commission.”

He said they had many decades of practice and most of the senior practitioners had served as acting judges in high courts on numerous occasions.

Baloyi said all members of the commission had undertaken to execute their mandate with “integrity, dignity and dedication to the truth”.

They were required to contribute to the commission's goal without fear or favour, and were entitled to as much information “as we deem fit”.

“At all times we have been treated by the commission with the respect that as professionals we would expect, and at no time have we gained the impression that matters are being hidden from us,” he said.

“Instead we have been actively and consistently encouraged to make contributions on how best the commission should achieve its mandate.”

In October 2011, President Jacob Zuma announced that Seriti, a Supreme Court of Appeal judge, would chair the three-man commission of inquiry, assisted by judges Hendrick Musi and Francis Legodi.

Initially, Judge Willem van der Merwe Ä the same judge who acquitted Zuma on a rape charge Ä was appointed to help Seriti, alongside Legodi.

However, in December 2011, the presidency said Van der Merwe had indicated he would not be able to serve on the commission for personal reasons.

Zuma then appointed Free State High Court Judge President Musi to replace Van der Merwe.

In May, commission secretary Mvuseni Ngubane was found dead on the back seat of his car in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. Police said a suicide note was found near the body, but that parts of it were illegible because of blood stains. It was not clear why he committed suicide.

As secretary of the commission he would have been responsible for managing its budget and ensuring it had administrative support.

The multi-million rand arms deal 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 was himself 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.

Earlier, the Democratic Alliance said the Seriti commission was “clearly” in deep trouble.

“Judge Seriti must surely appreciate the enormous public cynicism about the (probe into the) arms deal, following what appears to be a decade-long cover-up of the biggest corruption scandal in the history of our country,” DA MP David Maynier said in a statement.

“He must therefore act, not only to restore the credibility of the commission, but also to build public trust in it.”

Maynier said it was imperative that Seriti make a public statement to restore the integrity of the commission. - Sapa


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