Human rights lawyers take on Judge Willie Seriti

2014-06-10 17:38

Lawyers for Human Rights took Judge Willie Seriti on when he tried to prevent questions relating to claims that the offsets from the multibillion-rand arms deal were a total failure.

The offsets were promises that the arms companies made to invest in businesses in South Africa in return for which their offerings were given preferential status.

Advocate Anna-Marie de Vos today asked former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, who was under cross-examination at the commission into the arms deal, if he would agree with what critics said that the offsets were a disaster.

Before Kasrils could respond, Seriti, the commission’s chairperson, said he would not allow the question because there were officials from Armscor and the department of trade and industry who had testified regarding the offsets.

“The department of trade and industry had already testified that there were benefits of the offsets. We now know how the offsets have performed. Whatever view Kasrils would have would be irrelevant. One of the Armscor officials said that some of the offsets had exceeded the expectations. Exceeded expectations,” said Seriti.

Vos replied that she did not agree that only one side of the evidence should be heard.

“The idea here is for people to give evidence before the commission to get different views. It may also be that the viewpoints of my clients may be right one,” she said.

“The evidence presented doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road. Clearly the commission has not made up its mind yet as to what the real position is. If I’m not allowed to do it, then it makes no sense for me to cross-examine the witness.

“The commission may find that the offsets were not a success and I am entitled to put that to the witness.”

Kasrils finally answered the question, saying he did not agree that the offsets were a total failure as there had been achievements and benefits to the arms deal.

Earlier in his testimony, Kasrils said that he also agreed with the speech in Parliament of former defence minister, Joe Modise, who said that the arms deal expectation was that the economy would benefit by R110 billion of new investment and industrial participation programmes and that 65 000 jobs would be created.

“The benefits are not completed yet. They are still under way. We are still benefiting on a daily and monthly basis. What is needed by the commission is real solid facts before it. A very serious study, not something [from a] journalist,” he said.

It also came to light today that members of arms company ThyssenKrupp, one of the winning bidders, saw Kasrils as a “close friend” and had presented him with expensive Hermès ties.

Evidence leader, advocate Simmy Lebala, asked Kasrils why Walter Ulrich Scheel, the son of a former German president, would diarise a meeting with him and if he recalled the meeting.

“Have you met with Christopher Hoenings? Does the name tick on your mind? You also met Walter Ulrich Scheel, who is the son of the former German president. Do you remember the names?

Both of them are employed by a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp, which formed part of the German consortiums,” said Lebala.

Lebala read that Ulrich Scheel wrote in his diary that he would be meeting with Kasrils “whom, at one point received ties worth 300 Deutsche marks from Hoenings”.

Lebala asked if at the time Kasrils received the gifts, he discussed the contracts and the role ThyssenKrupp would play in the arms deal.

Kasrils denied any wrongdoing by accepting the ties and mentioned that other people had been given ties as well.

“I had already met Mr Hoenings in South Africa. I’m not sure if there was a meeting in Germany. He projected himself as a charming man who showed interest in my wife’s activities in art,” he said.

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