Arms deal: In search of witness #5

2013-09-01 06:00

A witness who was due to testify on the defence force’s role in buying equipment that was part of the multibillion-rand arms deal, has been taken off the witness list at the arms deal commission.

The navy completed its testimony earlier this week with Rear Admiral Derek Christian.

The fifth witness, Captain JD Jordan, was not called up and City Press understands that his testimony would be based on his knowledge of the defence force’s role in the procurement process.

When Rear Admirals Alan Green and William Higgs from the navy were approached about the evident exclusion of Jordan, Green was quick to state that the navy could not comment.

“That is the decision of the commission. You’ll have to speak to Baloyi (the commission spokesperson),” said Green.

But Higgs confirmed that Jordan was due to testify regarding procurement issues in relation to the navy, which received four frigates and three submarines from the controversial arms deal.

“But we can’t say any more. We aren’t trying to hide anything. But there is process that must be followed. We are merely here to testify,” said Green.

Evidence leader Advocate Simmy Lebala mentioned he would call up Jordan this past week to talk about the procurement process.

Jordan’s testimony would show that the arms deal was informed by a process and how that process was followed.

“There’s a cut-off to his testimony, because from a certain stage the process gets higher, Armscor gets to be involved up until Cabinet makes a decision,” added Lebala.

But over the past weekend, the witness list was changed, excluding the first witness who might be able to shed some light on the procurement process.

The spokesperson for the department of defence, Sphiwe Dlamini, said it was the commission’s prerogative to decide who to call up and when.

“We were asked to avail particular people, which we have done. If there are changes then you’ll have to ask the commission. But as far as I know Jordan is still to testify,” said Dlamini.

William Baloyi, the commission’s spokesperson, said the evidence leaders are the ones who do consultations with witnesses and make arrangements on who should provide testimony and when.

“In the case of Captain Jordan, he will be called when Armscor gives evidence, not with the navy. As to what his testimony entails, that will be heard when he appears before the commission,” added Baloyi.

Daphney Chuma, the Armscor spokesperson, said the procurement entity was not aware whether Jordan would testify under Armscor as he is an employee of the navy.

“I cannot confirm if Jordan will be part of the list because we have not yet been notified by the commission as to who will constitute that list. We will talk to the commission soon about the witness list. But nothing has been finalised yet,” she said, but would not elaborate on the time frame.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the “delicate” situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo caused an early adjournment.

Brigadier General William Bayne, who was scheduled to testify after Major General Gerald Malinga, had been called to the DRC where 1 345 SA National Defence Force soldiers have been deployed.

Baloyi said Bayne would be called at a later stage to testify before the commission.

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