It’s time to break the silence

2013-08-04 10:00

It’s a commission that is supposed to answer the many questions of what really happened behind the scenes when South Africa decided to procure modern weaponry some 14 years ago.

It was supposed to hold its first public hearing tomorrow.

This was to assist the country to put the allegations of fraud and corruption that have engulfed the deal to rest.

But it was not to be. On the eve of its sitting, the arms deal commission has been mired in yet another scandal after Judge Francis Legodi resigned as a committee member.

Legodi was appointed to assist commission chairperson Judge Willie Seriti.

His shock resignation comes in the wake of those of two other members of the commission who tendered their resignations this year.

One, a lawyer and former acting judge from Pretoria, Norman Moabi, was a senior investigator for the commission.

When he quit in January, he alleged the commission was not being transparent and was concealing a “second agenda”.

On Friday, Kate Painting, the commission’s former principal legal researcher, also broke her silence, confirming she had also become aware of a “second agenda”.

These shenanigans are not what South Africans expect from what could be the most important commission of inquiry in this country’s democratic history.

But we should also not forget that when President Jacob Zuma announced this commission nearly two years ago, he was faced with the threat of an imminent court challenge to compel him to do so.

It cannot be that only two people – Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik – were convicted and imprisoned for fraud and corruption charges emanating from the deal.

Zuma himself escaped being brought before a court – and he’s now facing a different court challenge to try to prevent the spy tapes that the National Prosecuting Authority used to drop his corruption charges from becoming publicly available.

Despite doubtlessly being terrified, two of the three people who resigned from the commission have now spoken out to inform us that all is not well with the commission.

If Zuma is serious about removing this arms deal blight from the face of our democratic history, and about clearing his presidency of the dark clouds that hang over it, he must take drastic action.

Doing nothing would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

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