Questions raised about Legodi's resignation

Terry Crawford-Browne says the resignation is further proof that the commission is a cover-up.

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 - The Presidency says it doesn't believe the credibility of the Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry has been compromised by the resignation of Judge Francis Legodi.

Legodi made the announcement on Thursday morning citing personal reasons.

President Jacob Zuma said it was with "deep regret" that he accepted the resignation.

The commission into the multi-billion rand arms deal was set up by the president in 2011, but still hasn't started taking witness testimony into whether corruption occurred.

While the commission itself says people should wait until the public hearings start, to make up their own minds, arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne says he still smells a cover-up.

"The problem is they think they can bury it with more and more fun and games and think it will go away; well it won't."

Former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein said Legodi's resignation is deeply concerning.

"There have now been three very high level resignations. In the case of all of them, it has either been stated explicitly, or there's the sense that people are very unhappy with the direction of the commission."

He said the resignation compromises the commission's credibility.

"I'm troubled. Does this mean the commission will only comprise two judges? It seems to me they've decided they're going to go ahead with the official view of the arms deal - the government view - and they are going to push ahead with that regardless of what is happening."

The Democratic Alliance (DA)'s Mmusi Maimane said the setbacks are interfering with the commission's ability to adequately do its job.

"The commission has suffered multiple changes, which in fact hampers its ability to investigate properly. We believe, as the hearings are set to begin, that we need to find the right people and ensure we can restore public trust in the commission."

The commission's already asked for more time to make its findings.

Public hearings will start in Pretoria on 5 August and are set to run until 31 January 2014.

The inquiry is being headed by Willie Seriti.

PLAGUED BY PROBLEMS

In January, senior investigator Norman Moabi quit, after writing to Judge Seriti alleging that the commission was not transparent and had a "second agenda".

In May, commission secretary Mvuseni Ngubane was found dead in his car in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police said a suicide note was found next to his body.

TRANSPARENCY

In July, a closed meeting to discuss defence procurement was suddenly postponed.

Members of Parliament (MPs), Defence Department officials and Armscor were expected to take part in the discussion.

The committee's programme said it was a closed meeting because of the sensitive nature of the information being presented there.

DA MP David Maynier had written to the committee chairperson asking him to explain why the meeting was going to be held in private.

But Maynier received a notice that it had been cancelled.

"I now need to determine why the meeting was postponed. It is absolutely imperative that the Portfolio on Defence and Military Veterans receive a detailed briefing on defence acquisition."