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Arms deal inquiry on track

The arms deal inquiry was set up by President Jacob Zuma eight months ago.

President Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma,arms deal,Vas Soni,seriti,William Baloyi,Sthembiso Mdladla
Local

JOHANNESBURG - The arms deal inquiry said on Thursday it was on track with its schedule, despite the removal of two of the three advocates responsible for leading and assessing evidence. 

Two weeks ago the secretary for the commission died in an apparent suicide. 

The inquiry was set up by President Jacob Zuma eight months ago and is chaired by Judge Willie Seriti. 

Arms deal inquiry spokesperson William Baloyi said the commission was not disrupted by the recent developments. 

“Everything is moving according to our own road map.”

Seriti is currently in the process of finding replacements for advocates Vas Soni and Sthembiso Mdladla who were removed from the commission. 

“The process is quite at an advanced stage and I think we would be able to pronounce on the people who would have accepted,” said Baloyi.

Following a vetting process, it emerged that Soni had previously worked for French arms company Thint, while Mdladla allegedly failed to finalise an inquiry into policing in KwaZulu-Natal seven years ago.

The commission was set up to investigate allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety and irregularity.

It is expected to look into six areas, including whether the awarding of contracts in the arms deal procurement process had been improperly influenced.

The commission has two years to complete its work and will submit interim reports to Zuma every six months. It was also granted the right to subpoena witnesses.

In 1998 government announced it expected to acquire frigates, submarines, helicopters, jet trainers and fighters from a number of European suppliers to rejuvenate the prime mission equipment of the South African Navy and Air Force.

Preferred bidders were announced at the Defence Exhibition SA in September that year. Negotiations followed with deals signed in December 1999. The contracts were worth an estimated R30 billion at the time.

The deadline for public submissions to the inquiry is the end of July. 

(Edited by Clare Matthes)

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