In mid-October the Seriti Commission of Inquiry starts its third month of hearings into the controversial R70-billion Arms Deal.
The Right2Know Campaign calls for a fully transparent process to expose the alleged corruption and abuse of power linked to the Arms Deal. R2K is concerned by reports of attempts by the Seriti Commission to limit the public’s right to know (see the statement by Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of Arms Deal researchers and activists Andrew Feinstein, Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren).
This includes the secrecy surrounding the list of Armscor witnesses and the limited access to witness statements. We also note that the limited cross-examination of witnesses by evidence leaders risks the Commission being seeing as a one-sided process. Another major concern is that witnesses to the Commission (particularly civil society activists) have not been given access to information held by the Commission that they need in order to cross-examine witnesses.
The establishment of the Commission two years ago was a victory for civil society groups. For almost 15 years R2K supporters and allies have been asking the difficult questions – Why did South Africa buy weapons we cannot afford while the government cut back on critical social spending?
The answer may lie in a corrupt relationship between South African securocrats, politicians and a mix of local and global businessmen and large arms corporations. The Arms Deal is a good example of why the securocrats support the unconstitutional Secrecy Bill. The Secrecy Bill will make it even harder for the truth to be brought to light, and shared among the millions of people who have to bear the cost of such deals. It is even more important that the Commission fully answer these questions, in light of the new round of arms acquisitions that are likely to follow the same path.
The Commission is looking increasingly like a whitewash. These new obstacles suggest that securocrats and the corrupt networks they are protecting might indeed prevail in covering up the truth behind the Arms Deal. This follows high-profile resignations from the Commission earlier this year.
To restore public faith in this process the Commission must, through its actions, recommit itself to the public’s right to know. R2K calls on Judge Seriti to show leadership on these issues, to ensure that public confidence in the Commission is restored and above all, to prevent a whitewash by the securocrats and their corrupt networks!
For more comment, please contact:
R2K W. Cape spokesperson: Roegshanda Pascoe (083 769 1296)
R2K Gauteng spokesperson: Dale McKinley (072 429 4086)
R2K KZN spokesperson: Desmond D’Sa (083 982 6939)
R2K National Spokesperson: Murray Hunter (072 672 5468)