Seriti to decide if arms deal critic's testimony needed

2014-07-21 14:27
Judge William Seriti (Stephane de Sakutin, AFP)

Judge William Seriti (Stephane de Sakutin, AFP)

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Pretoria - The Seriti Commission of Inquiry will at a later stage make a decision on whether arms deal critic and losing bidder Richard Young's testimony was needed, chairperson Judge Willie Seriti said on Monday.

"It is unfortunate that Dr Young was unable to be here today," he said in Pretoria where the commission is sitting.

"We have tried to bend over backwards to accommodate Dr Young and we have not succeeded in a getting a statement."

Seriti was reacting to the news that Young would not be attending the commission where he was expected to give his evidence-in-chief on Monday.

The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the country's multi-billion-rand arms procurement deal in 1999.

Young set out reasons for not attending proceedings in two letters sent to the commission through his attorneys.

Evidence leader Barry Skinner read the letters into the record.

According to the letters, the main reason for Young not being at the commission was that he recently underwent a corneal transplant which affected his vision.

"It would... be an exercise in futility for our client to appear under those circumstances," Skinner read from the letter.

"At best our client would testify for an hour or two before being unable to continue until the next day."

Bundle of documents

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.

Young's attorneys said their client had discovered 1 061 documents comprising of 20 000 pages. He believed 200 of these documents were relevant to his evidence.

"No bundle of documents has been produced or made available for our client to prepare his evidence," the attorneys said in the letter.

Young also indicated that there were certain witnesses he wanted to cross-examine.

Another reason cited was that his farmworkers were taking leave.

"We point out that our client would like to testify at the commission and believes that it is important that he does so."

Skinner admitted to the commission that evidence leaders were not ready to lead Young.

"As evidence leaders we agree that he is not ready to give evidence."

Skinner said Young would be ready to testify in the first week of October.

The commission has been adjourned until Thursday when Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille is expected to testify.

She was the initial whistle-blower regarding the arms deal, who called for Parliament to investigate. At the time she was a Pan Africanist Congress MP.

- SAPA
Read more on:    willie seriti  |  pretoria  |  arms deal
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