Another delay for arms deal commission?

2013-08-18 14:00

The arms deal commission is scheduled to resume this week, but the declassification of more than a million pages of evidence has not yet been completed by the defence department.

Siphiwe Dlamini, the department’s spokesperson, would not confirm whether the process had been completed, but said declassification was not a simple, one-off event.

“This process could never take two weeks. But on Monday (tomorrow) we will put our case before the commission and say how far we are,” he said.

He added that the department did not want to delay the proceedings any further.

Two weeks ago, the commission was adjourned in part to give the department time to complete the declassification.

According to insiders, the department had to sort through 1.5 million pages of evidence.

Last week, City Press reported that there were still more than 4 million pages of arms deal evidence gathered by the former Scorpions unit that the commission had not read.

After publication, the commission announced that it had appointed a service provider to scan the documents.

Sources say that because the declassification has not been completed, it may obstruct how defence department witnesses testify.

The first section of the commission’s hearings concerns the reasons for buying the weapons. Sources said there was a real possibility that defence witnesses might refuse to answer particular questions that are based on secret documents.

Dlamini said there were three things the commission wanted to know from the department: the rationale behind buying the arms, the budget and how the equipment had been used.

“If anything to that effect is in unclassified documents, then we will indicate it. We’ll discuss the way forward with the commission chair and he will decide,” added Dlamini.

The commission’s William Baloyi said that all these issues would be discussed tomorrow.

Both refused to be drawn into whether another postponement was on the cards.

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