Arms deal critics pull out of commission, citing a cover-up

2014-08-28 13:35

The Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the 1999 multibillion-rand arms deal is no longer salvageable, arms deal critic and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein has said.

“We believe in the rule of law and the primacy of the Constitution, but cannot cooperate with an institution that is so deeply compromised that its primary outcome will be to cover up the facts,” he told reporters in Pretoria today.

“We believe the commission is no longer salvageable.”

Feinstein, and fellow critics Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren, announced today they were withdrawing from all participation in the commission.

The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the arms deal.

All three had been expected to testify in the commission.

Van Vuuren said the decision had not been taken lightly but he, Feinstein and Holden believed the commission had missed its opportunity to support the struggle for transparency and accountability.

Holden, who is author of the book The Devil in the Detail, about the arms deal, said there were four reasons for their decision.

The first was that Seriti had indicated he was not interested in hearing evidence from witnesses about documents they had written themselves.

Seriti made the ruling when Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier was testifying at the commission earlier this month.

Holden said Maynier was prevented from giving substantive evidence because he was not the author of the documents referred to. This limitation was not applied to previous witnesses.

“The implication of this ruling is that only those who have been involved in the arms deal can introduce evidence,” he said.

“How the commission intends to discover the truth by only hearing from participants in the deal is a mystery.”

The second reason for withdrawing was because the commission had failed to provide Holden, Feinstein and Van Vuuren with access to relevant documents.

The third reason was that the commission had refused to admit key documents, they said.

Holden said the fourth reason was that information from parties who resigned from the commission, and the commission’s own public conduct, suggested it did not intend to properly investigate the matter.

“There is evidence to suggest that the commission is following a second agenda, namely, to discredit critical witnesses and find in favour of the state and arms corporations’ version of events,” Holden said.

“The commission has not adequately responded to this serious allegation. Recent interaction with the commission reinforces our fears in this regard.”

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