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The commission of inquiry into the multi-billion rand arms deal controversy will get to work again from December 1, it emerged this week after anti-arms campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne formally withdrew his Constitutional Court application for an investigation.
Justice ministerial spokesman Tlali Tlali said the details would be made shortly, including whether the commission would continue with two judges, or whether a new commissioner would be announced.
Pretoria High Court Deputy Judge President Willem van der Merwe withdrew for personal reasons shortly after Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced the commission’s terms of reference last month.
The minister’s proclamation followed President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of the official inquiry in September, and his offer to pay costs – without conceding any legal points.
Should there be a decision that the commission, chaired by Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Willie Seriti, is to continue with only him and Judge Francis Malesela Legodi, of the Pretoria High Court, then it would have to be administratively reconstituted.
But it is understood that putting together logistics for the commission’s proper functioning is already under way.
The two-year commission of inquiry, which will sit in Johannesburg at an estimated cost of R40 million, must determine the rationale for the strategic defence procurement packages, whether the acquired arms and equipment are being used, and whether the anticipated job opportunities materialised, whether any person(s), within and/or outside the government improperly influenced the awarding or conclusion of any contracts, and whether there should be legal proceedings against such person(s), or any basis to pursue the recovery of losses to the state.
Crawford-Browne told Weekend Argus he was “pleased” with the outcome of his years-long fight.
The terms of reference would now address the crucial issue of whether the offsets – investment spin-offs pledged by successful contractors – were constitutional.
Crawford-Browne in 1999 started his battle against the arms deal, which has been mired in claims of corruption, political favours and fraud almost since its inception. The president said earlier this month he would testify. - Saturday Argus