The chairman of the commission of inquiry into the arms deal, Judge Willie Seriti, has declined to speculate whether former president Thabo Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma would be asked to make representations.

Judge Seriti said at a National Press Club media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday that the commission had not, at this stage, begun identifying people it would call or request to make submissions.

“If we come to the conclusion that (Mbeki and Zuma) submissions are necessary, we will call them,” he said.

Judge Seriti, who is to be assisted by Judges Francis Legodi and Thekiso Musi, also declined to speculate if Chippy Shaik – who was in charge of arms acquisitions at the Department of Defence at the time – would be asked to make submissions to the commission.

The judge announced that senior counsels Tayob Aboobaker, Tshepo Sibeko, Barry Skinner, Simmy Lebala, and Moss Mphaga, advocates Phumlani Ngobese, Mahlape Sello, Carol Sibiya, and Sibusiso Zondi and senior attorney Matshego Ramagaga, had been appointed evidence leaders for the commission.

“Besides these legal practitioners, in our permanent staff complement we have qualified and experienced legal researchers and attorneys. We have no doubt that these legal minds will assist the commission to carry out its mandate,” he said.

The commission’s secretary is Pretty Luphondo, who is on secondment to the commission from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

“She has an impeccable record as a senior manager and has in-depth understanding of government policies. She has been actively involved in the establishment of the operational systems of the commission and I have found her to be effective, competent and of value to the commission,” said Judge Seriti.

The commission was appointed by Zuma to look into allegations of fraud, corruption and impropriety in the strategic defence procurement packages – the arms deal.

The commission’s terms of reference are to enquire into, make findings on, report on and make recommendations concerning the following, taking into consideration the constitution and relevant legislation, policies and guidelines:

* Whether the arms acquired are being underused or not used.

* Whether job opportunities that were expected to flow from the arms packages have been realised.

* Whether offsets anticipated to flow from the packages had been realised.

* And, if they had, the extent to which they had materialised;

* If they had not, the steps that ought to be taken to realise them;

* Whether any person/s in and/or outside the government, improperly influenced the awarding or conclusion of any of the arms contracts.

* If so, whether legal proceedings should be instituted against such persons, and the form such legal proceedings should take.

* Whether, in particular, there is any basis to pursue such persons for the recovery of any losses that the state might have suffered as a result of their conduct.

* Whether any contract concluded pursuant to the arms deals process was tainted by fraud or corruption capable of proof, that would satisfy cancellation and the ramifications of any such cancellation.

Judge Seriti said the closing date for submissions was July 31 and the commission would probably have public hearings in January or February.

“The commission once again calls upon all interested parties to make submissions. Thereafter the commission would consider the submissions. Dates and venues of the public hearings would be determined and communicated at a later stage,” said Judge Seriti.

The commission’s new office is located on the 21st floor of Isivuno House, corner Lilian Ngoyi (Van der Walt) and Madiba (Vermeulen) streets. The commission’s contact details are: telephone 012 358 3999 and e-mail [email protected]

Pretoria News