Arms deal legally sound: Admiral

By Drum Digital
21 August 2013

The strategic defence procurement package (SDPP) was in line with the constitutional imperative to defend national sovereignty, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.

SA Navy Rear Admiral Robert Higgs, the commission's second witness, was led in submitting evidence by Simmy Lebala.

Higgs was requested to explain the link between the role of the military, the use of force, and the SDPP, commonly referred to as the arms deal, in light of the Constitution.

"The use of force is fundamental to any military which must defend and protect South Africa in accordance with the rules of war, the Geneva Convention, our Constitution, and broad international examples of professional militaries. "We are not out of step with other democracies which have their own militaries," he said. Higgs, a Naval Officer for close on 40 years, said he believed the ethos of the SA National Defence Force's mandate had guided the processes which led to the controversial arms deal. "The ethos [of the SANDF's code of conduct], Mr chairman, I believe, was fully embraced by all serving military people who participated in the Defence Review and all associated processes to come up with the fact that we needed certain equipment." The previous witness, Rear Admiral Alan Green, told the commission on Tuesday that the newly-formed SANDF had been crippled by a lack of equipment. The military officers are addressing the commission on the rationale behind the SDPP and the utilisation of the equipment acquired. When the new dispensation came in 1994, the SANDF was established in place of the old SA Defence Force (SADF). "We were then in a position where all of us were integrated into the SANDF," Green said. "The primary equipment we had at the time was from the SADF and that equipment was at the end of its life cycle. That was due to the sanctions that were imposed on the country prior to '94." After democracy, there was a need to rejuvenate the defence force's equipment. "During that period I served in the navyand I don't have first-hand information about the precise state of equipment in the air force. However, I was aware that they also requiredrejuvenation," said Green. "Any equipment used extensively requires extensive maintenance -- our equipment had been extensively used both at sea and in the air. That is why I said there was dire need for equipment." President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.

-by Sapa

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