Future of arms commission in Zuma’s hands

2013-08-06 00:00

THE decision about whether to continue the arms procurement commission with just two judges is back in the hands of President Jacob Zuma.

Judge Willie Seriti, who leads the commission with co-commissioner Judge Thekiso Musi, said Zuma has to decide if he will replace Judge Francis Legodi, who resigned last week.

Zuma’s other option was to issue a proclamation to continue the commission with two judges.

The Defence Department yesterday tried to prevent the commission from starting its public hearings with an urgent application to the Pretoria high court, which argued that he commission no longer has a quorum of three commissioners.

Judge Seriti said that he had received a copy of the department’s urgent application on Sunday night.

However, the department had abandoned its court challenge when after Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula did not support the application.

Judge Seriti said he hoped Zuma would decide on the issue by Friday.

Advocate Simmy Lebala SC, one of the evidence leaders before the commission, started yesterday’s public hearings in the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria by stating that his team was more than ready and on track.

But lawyers for the Defence Department, led by Michael Kuper SC, asked that proceedings be adjourned until August 19 to deal with the declassification of documents.

Judge Seriti agreed and adjourned the hearings into the multi-billion arms deal scandal just before 10.30 am.

Several senior Navy and Air Force officers attended the morning session.

Three senior members of the commission have resigned since January due to uncertainty concerning the commission’s integrity, credibility and motives. A fourth member, advocate Tayob Aboobaker SC, had also tendered his resignation over the weekend, but then withdrew it. He said yesterday he was now fully on board.

A source close to the commission told Beeld it was highly unlikely that Zuma would replace Judge Legodi.

“The commission has sifted through mountains of documentation in the past year and nine months. There is no way in which a new judge can catch up.”

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