Senior arms deal counsellor retracts resignation

Judge Willie Seriti, chairperson of the arms procurement commission. (Gallo)

Judge Willie Seriti, chairperson of the arms procurement commission. (Gallo)

The commission's spokesperson William Baloyi confirmed the retraction on Sunday, "He submitted a resignation letter which, after some engagement with him, he retracted. So he's now on board."

Baloyi could not give details of why Aboobaker, the most senior counsel in the commission, wanted to resign. The Sunday Times reported that Aboobaker submitted his resignation letter to the commission on Friday.
In the letter, which the newspaper said it had seen, Aboobaker criticised the commission for nepotism, lack of professionalism and infighting. "I cannot operate in an environment which is so suffocating," he reportedly wrote. He undertook to "keep confidential all the 'machinations' which have led to my resignation", but warned: "If I am pertinently faced with facts that impact upon my credibility or which impugn my character then I will have to respond."

Judge Francis Legodi resigned from the commission on Thursday. Legodi and Judge Hendrick Musi were appointed to help commission chair Judge Willie Seriti to probe allegations of fraud and corruption relating to the strategic defence procurement package. A senior commission investigator quit in January. Norman Moabi, a lawyer and former acting judge from Pretoria, alleged in a letter leaked to Beeld newspaper, that the commission was not being transparent and was concealing an alternative or 'second agenda'.

President Jacob Zuma announced the commission's establishment in October 2011. Since then it had been dogged by claims that its integrity might be compromised. The commission would start in Pretoria on Monday after a five-month delay. On Wednesday, the presidency said Zuma was considering extending the commission's term by a year. It was scheduled to run until November.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, minister in the presidency Trevor Manuel, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota were among those expected to testify in the first phase of the inquiry. The deal, which was initially estimated to cost R43-million, has dogged South African politics since it was signed in 1999, after then Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille raised allegations of corruption in Parliament.

Zuma himself was once charged with corruption after his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who won 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 April 2009.

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