Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille is due to appear before the Seriti Commission of inquiry in Pretoria today. De Lille is seen as the original whistleblower to the controversial arms deal, when she was still a Pan Africanist Congress member of Parliament.
In 1999 the South African government signed huge deal contracts to buy defense equipment, that would cost the taxpayer billions.
The arms deal which was primarily known as the Strategic Defence Package is nothing other than a multi-billion rand military acquisitions project which was finalised in 1999 by the South African government.
Former President Thabo Mbeki also took stand before the Inquiry last week, but many still feel that Mbeki’s appearance before the inquiry didn’t shed any light in the investigation as it was anticipated. It was rather labelled as a “damp squib” other than anything.
The military acquisition was meant to somewhat modernise the South African National Defence Force in terms of equipment and hardware. What prompted for the acquisition of the military equipment was basically a report on the White Paper in 1996 presented to the National Parliament by then Minister of Defense Joe Modise.
As De Lille takes to the stand today many are hopeful that her testimony will shed
light and move the inquiry forward with their investigation. De Lille called for the arms deal to be investigated after she had her revelations public some 15 years ago.
Mbeki’s dominant argument in the inquiry was the fact that if only for the those people who suspected corruption in the enquiry to produce evidence that would be useful.
What is the Seriti Commission?
The Seriti commission was formed in 2011 by President Jacob Zuma, who appointed Supreme court Chief Justice Judge Willie Seriti to head the inquiry. In relation to other factors the inquiry is investigating alleged fraud, corruption and irregularities that were involved when this whole strategic defense procurement package begun.
During its short period of operation though this arms deal inquiry has faced a number of stumbling blocks which are bound to delay and affect the effectiveness of the commission. A senior Investigator and law researcher in the inquiry quit way before the proceedings began and the commission’s secretary who is a top attorney, was found dead in his car in Kwazulu Natal in 2012.
The first phase of the Arms deal commission started in January, and it was meant to wrap up in May after the testimony by former president Thabo Mbeki. However his appearance was postponed due to his mother’s death leading the inquiry to start on the 21 July.
Concerns have risen amongst the media and relevant bodies that there is as possibility that the Arms deal commission can run out of time before it concludes its programme of action which is meant to wrap up in November. The commission has been adjourned more than 18 times since it commenced in August 2013.
Currently the direction going forward will be determined by De Lille’s testimony. The concern though is whether or not she will be able to produce the evidence sufficient to back up whatever she argues in her testimony.
Story by: Ndimphiwe Gilili