No free pass for ANC: Arms commission

By Drum Digital
11 March 2013

Reports that the involvement of the ANC and its leadership in the arms deal will not be investigated are false, the Arms Procurement Commission said on Monday.

"Currently no evidence against the said organisation [ANC] has been brought to the attention of the commission," spokesman William Baloyi said.

"But this does not mean there is no information. Maybe it is information we can't disclose. Should evidence come to light the commission will investigate."

Baloyi explained the current list of individuals called to testify at the hearings was the first phase.

"We called for submissions and individuals and groups made submissions, and out of those submissions and other investigations we compiled a list of 12 individuals who would come for the first phase of the hearings. That is not a conclusive list," he said.

"Investigations are still ongoing and our evidence leaders are meeting with other witnesses and implicated people."

The Sunday Times reported that the African National Congress and its leaders, believed to be the main benefactors of the arms deal, were given a free pass, and that no party officials would be questioned or bank accounts examined.

The newspaper said it had seen a letter written by commission chair, Judge Willie Seriti, on February 26 which read: "No evidence implicating the African National Congress has been brought to the attention of the commission".

Baloyi said the letter was a response to lawyers for one of the witnesses asking why certain people were not called to testify.

"As indicated before the investigation continues and the list [of witnesses] provided is not the final one."

He said the commission had postponed the start of the hearings because new evidence emerged implicating individuals and organisations, which had to be investigated.

"This letter was issued before we came to the conclusion of postponing because of new evidence. It is premature to come to a conclusion that certain organisations and individuals are not going to be called," Baloyi said.

In February the commission announced that the hearings, which were scheduled to start on March 4, had been moved to August 5 because of developments in the investigation.

In October 2011 President Jacob Zuma announced that Seriti, a Supreme Court of Appeal judge, would chair the three-man commission of inquiry, assisted by judges Hendrick Musi and Francis Legodi.

In January, one of the commission's senior investigators, lawyer Norman Moabi, accused it of having a second agenda. Moabi, a former acting judge from Pretoria, alleged in a letter leaked to media that the commission was not transparent and concealed a "second agenda".

Moabi wrote in the letter, addressed to Seriti, that he was resigning because of interference and because he had lost faith in the commission's work.

Initially Judge Willem van der Merwe -- the judge who acquitted Zuma on a rape charge -- was appointed to help Seriti, alongside Legodi.

However, in December 2011, the presidency said Van der Merwe would not be able to serve on the commission for personal reasons.

Zuma then appointed Free State High Court Judge President Musi to replace Van der Merwe.

In May 2012, commission secretary Mvuseni Ngubane was found dead in his car in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. Police said a suicide note was found near the body, but parts of it were illegible because of blood stains. It was thus not clear why he committed suicide. Ngubane would have been responsible for managing the commission's budget and ensuring it had administrative support.

The multi-million-rand arms deal has dogged South Africa's politics since it was signed in 1999, after then Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille raised allegations of corruption in Parliament.

Zuma was himself charged with corruption after his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who had a tender to supply part of the requirements, was found to have facilitated a bribe for him from a French arms company.

The charges against Zuma were dropped in 2009.


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