Arms deal critic sticks to his guns

2014-10-09 14:37
Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne is seen at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal. (File: Sapa)

Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne is seen at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal. (File: Sapa)

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Pretoria - Arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne on Thursday refused to retract his claims to the Seriti Commission of Inquiry that the aircraft the government bought in 1999 were not being used.

"The evidence of General Burger, who is the director of helicopter systems, is that they are frequently used for casualty evacuations. They are also used to train pilots," Jennifer Caine, for the defence department, said while cross-examining Crawford-Browne at the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

"They have conducted operations in the DRC, Sudan and the Central African Republic. They have flown in excess of 18 000 hours. They have been used in numerous other rescue operations."

They were also being used in anti-rhino-poaching missions.

Crawford-Browne said Caine's details were not relevant to the inquiry's terms of reference.

Caine asked Crawford-Browne whether he was prepared to withdraw a section of his sworn statement which reads: "With regards to the 30 Augusta helicopters purchased from Italy, I am informed that many of them are in storage and unused and/or rotting at Ysterplaat Air Force Base in Cape Town."

Crawford-Browne said he would not retract and urged the commission to inspect the aircraft.

"I have not been to the base to verify it myself. It is one point that the commission may take an interest in. I am not prepared to withdraw it."

Caine said Crawford-Browne's submission was ridiculous.

On Tuesday, Crawford-Browne told the inquiry that government acquired four frigates reportedly equipped with defective engines and an obsolete combat suite and armoury system.

"South Africa acquired three submarines that spend most of the time on the 'hard' at Simon's Town and 50 BAE Hawk and BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft for which the country had almost no pilots to fly them, mechanics to maintain them, or even the money to fuel them.

"The arms deal was a confidence trick played at huge socio-economic cost to the people of South Africa, which has seriously undermined our still-fragile constitutional democracy," said Crawford-Browne.

The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the arms procurement deal in 1999.

For billions of rands, government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  arms deal

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