'Arms deal whistleblowers should be heard'

Whistleblower evidence has been repeatedly postponed over the past year.

One of the Saab Gripen fighter jets, bought by the South African Airforce, as part of the country's controversial arms deal. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Whistleblowers should have been included in the first round of witness testimony at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry, former ANC Member of Parliament (MP) Andrew Feinstein said on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the commission released a draft schedule for public hearings over the next six months.

Former president Thabo Mbeki is expected to testify at the hearing as well as other government and military employees, including current and previous ministers.

The commission into the multi-billion rand arms deal was set up by President Jacob Zuma in 2011.

Judge Willie Seriti will head the inquiry.

Author and arms trade activist Feinstein said although the first round of hearings wasn't dealing with crucial allegations of corruption, whistleblowers should have been included.

"I think it's important not only to hear a government view on those aspects, but also to hear views of those who are critical of those dimensions of the deal."

Feinstein was scheduled to testify several times this year, but whistleblower evidence has been repeatedly postponed.

He says it is unclear when or if he could be called up.