Van Vuuren wants out of Seriti arms deal inquiry

Arms deal critic Hennie Van Vuuren told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Monday (20/10/2014) that he does not want to testify and refused to take an oath.

“We have provided the commission with a large volume of evidence and attempted to assist it by directing its attention to material that establishes what we contend is an undeniable fact that the arms deal was facilitated through bribery and corruption,” said Van Vuuren, in a statement read by his lawyer Geoff Budlender, SC.

“We have defended the work of this commission when others have accused it of fundamental failures. We argued that we must give you, commissioners, an opportunity to consider the evidence that we pass to you.”

He said however, the commission had failed to make the playing field level.

“We have been refused access to evidence. The commission has refused to make huge amounts of evidence public. We have attempted to resolve this issue during the 18 months that we participated in the commission’s work, wrote Van Vuuren.

The evidence includes millions of pages from documents of official investigations of corruption by government agencies into the arms deal.

“This material was collected at great expense and cost to the State and the South African people. Our repeated requests to access this information, which we were promised, have been ignored,” he said.

Van Vuuren said the inquiry had also refused an opportunity to provide critical documentary evidence alleging corruption. He said Seriti had declared some documents pointing to graft as inadmissible as evidence.

“The commission has lost the public’s trust. There is evidence to suggest that the commission is following a second agenda namely to discredit critical witnesses and find in favour of the State and arms corporations’s version of events,” he said.

“I am mindful of the fact that the arms deal has brought havoc on the lives of ordinary South Africans and corrupted our politics for the past 15 years. It has profited the rich at the expense of the poor.”

He said the “cover-up” that follows the 1999 arms deal has put in place a system of patronage for the purpose “of keeping alleged corrupt elites out of prison”.

“I have regretfully come to the conclusion that this commission will provide no remedy to the situation. I can no longer, in good conscience, participate in the hearings of the arms procurement commission,” said Van Vuuren.

“To do so would be to aid what I see as a deeply unfair and flawed process. I am of the view that the arms procurement commission has strayed from its mandate and become a fundamental obstacle to the public’s right to know and to justice.”

He called for the commission to be immediately disbanded and replaced with “full and transparent criminal investigation which leads to prosecution of all implicated in arms deal wrongdoing”.

The commission chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the country’s multi-billion rand arms procurement deal in 1999.

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. – Sapa

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