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Johannesburg - Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota has called for President Jacob Zuma and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to be subpoenaed to testify at the arms deal commission.
Lekota, who is scheduled to testify at the commission in a week’s time, told The Sunday Independent this week that Zuma and Radebe knew more about the controversial R70-billion arms deal than he did.
Lekota said the commission was a waste of time and was not serious about getting to the bottom of corruption allegations related to the arms deal.
He said he was unsure what they really wanted him to testify about as he knew nothing about any corruption that took place. “I joined the subcommittee when I became minister in 1999, and by that time everything had been done and I only had to sign it off. However, Jeff Radebe was there from the beginning to the end yet he has not been called to testify. President Zuma has been implicated in the deal and avoided trial, but he has not been subpoenaed. How did that happen? We are still grappling with the legal representation issue, so we will see what happens,” Lekota said.
Lekota’s utterances come as he and his former deputy, Ronnie Kasrils, might be forced to use state lawyers when they appear before the arms deal commission as Radebe sticks to his guns over paying private lawyers for the two of them.
The two are still uncertain as to who will represent them when they take the stand at the commission probing the deal.
Radebe said the state would not pay for any private lawyers, and that all former ministers and former president Thabo Mbeki would be afforded state attorneys to assist them with their testimony.
Kasrils told The Sunday Independent there was confusion over the issue because less than a week before he and Lekota are scheduled to appear, legal representation issues had still not been sorted.
“There is confusion about that and there is only a week to go. I am as keen as the public to help the commission fulfil its mandate, but why should it be at my own cost? It is something I cannot understand.
“It is extremely expensive to pay lawyers for this kind of commission. Right now we are waiting to hear what the final conclusion on this issue will be,” Kasrils said.
Radebe last month rejected a request by Mbeki, who is scheduled to appear before the commission early next year, for government to fund his private lawyers.
The firm that was to represent Mbeki, Boqwana Burns, has since withdrawn from the commission.
In justifying his decision, Radebe said his department was hard-pressed for resources as the commission was not budgeted for, and that it would offer legal assistance through the office of the state attorney.
All private lawyers would have to be paid for privately by witnesses who had hired them.
Other witnesses expected to appear at the commission this month include officials from Armscor, the company that buys arms for the defence department.
Arms commission spokesman William Baloyi said the commission’s understanding was that the state attorney would assist the two former ministers.
“Our regulations allow for private legal representation but at own cost. Any witness invited or subpoenaed is expected to appear before the commission,” Baloyi said.
The arms commission experienced a number of delays before it could start on August 5, and has already requested an extension from Zuma, who appointed the commission.
It is understood the commission itself will require additional funding to conclude its work. It has faced criticism from various quarters and doubts cast over whether it will get to the bottom of the controversial arms deal, which has seen many politicians and ANC-linked businessmen accused of receiving kickbacks.