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The extension of the Farlam and Seriti commissions will cost taxpayers an additional R133 million in the next six months, after President Jacob Zuma extended the mandates of both.
Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, announced on Friday that the Marikana commission, whose mandate expired on Thursday, would sit until end of April next year.
The commission would, however, have to submit its report to the president six weeks after its conclusion.
The tenure of the arms deal commission was extended until November next year, meaning more funds might have to be allocated in the new financial year.
According to the adjusted budget estimates of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Treasury has approved the amount to be allocated for both commissions until the end of April next year.
The money has been moved from the department’s allocated funds for computer services during the current financial year.
The Marikana commission, headed by retired Judge Ian Farlam, is probing circumstances around the killing of 34 miners during a wildcat strike at the Lonmin mine in Rustenburg last year.
Zuma extended the commission’s tenure this week after it expired on Thursday without having concluded its inquiry, which has seen police being grilled by the lawyers of the families of miners who were killed and injured during the shooting.
The commission has been hit with delays, including a legal wrangle over the funding of the legal representation of the families, which was settled last month when the Johannesburg High Court ruled that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe had to pay their legal fees.
In August this year, Judge Farlam lamented the delays experienced by the commission, giving the first hints that the commission would likely request an extension of its tenure.
The commission had at the time held 114 sessions and more than 12 000 pages of submissions had been handed in. All the recorded testimonies and cross-examination at the commission had to be translated, which was wasting time, but the commission has since implemented a simultaneous translations system for the proceedings.
Marikana commission spokesman Tshepo Mahlangu said Judge Farlam requested the April deadline as they had 28 more witnesses who had to testify, but said the number might increase or decrease depending on how the evidence unfolded.
“It is the time we requested because we believe it will be sufficient following the delays we had.
“The commission might decide that some of these witnesses are not necessary, but that is the time frame we believe we need to conclude, including the six weeks after all has been done,” said Mahlangu.
The arms deal commission, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, was formed by Zuma to probe the wide-ranging allegations of fraud and corruption in the R70 billion arms deal.
“At the appropriate time the judge will provide an updated version of schedule because we have not moved at the pace that he would have preferred owing to some delays,” arms commission spokesman William Baloyi said.
“But when this is done he will communicate as such. With the commission’s tenure extended we will obviously need additional funding, but the judge will discuss this with the Justice Department.”
The commission has also been hit by severe delays, with the most recent one being over the declassification of documents during testimony by Armscor, the Defence Department’s arms-buying company.
The delays have also resulted in the postponement of testimonies by former government ministers scheduled to testify.
Former defence minister Mosioua Lekota, his former deputy Ronnie Kasrils and former public enterprises minister Alec Erwin were scheduled to testify between September and October, but these have been delayed. - The Sunday Independent