Arms deal inquiry: Zuma may testify
James-Brent Styan, Die Burger
Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma will probably have to appear before the commission of inquiry into government’s controversial arms deal, which he announced on Thursday.
Zuma did not announce the members of the commission or the parameters according to which the commission would take place.
Justice department spokesperson Tlali Tlai said this would be announced on Friday.
Zuma’s direct involvement in the arms deal includes signing the order to stop Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) from investigating the arms deal in January 2001.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who in 1999 asked the first serious questions about the arms deal, said on Friday Zuma had to appoint a retired judge to lead the commission.
"There is a cloud hanging over all the parties about which allegations were made - also the president.”
Bringing the matter to an end
Speculation abounds about the reasons for the unexpected announcement.
Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said it was time for the matter to be brought to an end. “The president decided the fastest and cleanest way to conclude the matter is to appoint a commission of inquiry.”
But former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, who did an exposé on some aspects of the arms deal in his book, After the Party, believes otherwise.
“It is my opinion that there are two reasons for Zuma’s decision. Number one is that Julius Malema has threatened he will expose arms deal skeletons if the ANC continues with his disciplinary hearing. Now Zuma can neutralise the threat by controlling the process.”
The second reason could be the Constitutional Court challenge, in which Terry Crawford-Browne wanted to force the president to appoint a commission of inquiry.
Crawford-Browne’s legal advisor, Paul Hoffman, said they believed the announcement was made to obstruct this case.
“Government had to hand in their legal documents (on Thursday) in which they opposed our claims. I believe they realised their argument was not watertight so they issued a statement with no particulars.”