Arms deal commission resumes with witnesses from defence department

The Seriti commission of inquiry, which is chaired by Judge Willie Seriti and investigating the R70-billion arms deal, is set to call on witnesses on Tuesday. The witnesses are set to include mid-ranking officials – interchangeable and subject to change.

The commission was due to call its first witness two weeks ago but was adjourned on request from the defence department, owing to the declassification of documents. 

On Monday, the commission resumed but no mention was made of the declassification issue. Instead, evidence leaders read out their opening statements which spelled out the process the commission will follow.

Phase one of the commission will deal with the actual acquisition of the arms, the rationale behind the purpose and the costs involved. This will outline the history of the arms procurement process, the so-called "where, what, how and whom" of the process.

These witnesses will include prominent ANC figures Thabo Mbeki, Trevor Manuel and Alex Erwin. This phase is set to end on January 14.

Phase two will deal with the critiques of the arms deal. This will include evidence from anti-arms deal campaigners Patricia de Lille, Andrew Feinstein, Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden. 

Gavin Woods and Reinette Taljaard, former members of Parliament's standing committee on public account, are also on the witness list. 

Procedural issues
Also on Monday, a meeting for the legal teams was held, which was not open to the public. More procedural issues were likely to have been discussed.

The commission is continuing with two commissioners after the resignation of Judge Francis Legodi in July. 

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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