Seriti Commission mum on resignations

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iol news pic Seriti commission 1 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Judges Musi and Seriti preside over the Arms Procurement Commission at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria. File picture: Chris Collingridge

Johannesburg - The Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the 1999 arms deal could not confirm a report on Friday that two evidence leaders resigned this week.

“The position of the commission for now is that we neither confirm or deny the issue as it is still subject to internal processes,” spokesman William Baloyi said.

He said the commission was aware of the report.

The Times reported that advocates Barry Skinner SC and Carol Sibiya wrote a 15 page letter of resignation this week to Judge Willie Seriti.

In the letter, they claimed they were being treated disrespectfully by the commission's head of legal research, advocate Fanyana Mdumbe.

President Jacob Zuma announced the establishment of the commission, chaired by Seriti, in October 2011.

Its aim is to investigate alleged corruption in the country's multi-billion rand arms procurement deal.

Since the announcement, the commission has been dogged by claims that its integrity might be compromised.

Judge Willem van der Merwe resigned in 2011 for personal reasons, immediately after being appointed by Zuma as a commissioner.

He was replaced by Free State Judge President Hendrick Musi.

In January last year, senior commission investigator Norman Moabi quit.

Moabi, a lawyer and former acting judge from Pretoria, alleged in a letter, leaked to Beeld newspaper, that the commission was not being transparent and concealing an alternative or “second agenda”.

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.

Law researcher Kate Painting resigned last March, followed by commissioner Judge Francis Legodi last August.

“Judge Legodi has tendered his resignation for personal reasons and has requested that such reasons remain confidential,” spokesman for the presidency Mac Maharaj said at the time.

Skinner and Sibiya had led evidence from the department of trade and industry, and were consulting with arms deal critic and losing bidder Richard Young.

Young was expected to have testified at the commission on Monday, but was not present because he recently had an eye operation. The commission heard that he was battling to read.

According to Young's attorneys, the commission's schedule was also an issue.

Three days had been set aside for his evidence. However, Young said he would need a week or two, without cross-examination, to give his evidence-in-chief.

Skinner admitted to the commission that evidence leaders were not ready to lead Young and that he would be ready to testify in the first week of October.

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