Arms deal inquiry postponed

The inquiry has been postponed for two weeks because it's not properly constituted.

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/CAPE TOWN - The Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry has been postponed for two weeks because it's not properly constituted following Judge Francis Legodi's resignation last week.

Six months of public hearings were due to start today with current and former cabinet ministers and defence officials scheduled to testify.

The inquiry into the multibillion-rand arms deal was set up by President Jacob Zuma in 2011.

The commission has been hit by a series of setbacks over the past few months and has seen several high level resignations.

It has now emerged the Ministry of Defence prepared an urgent high court application in an attempt to prevent the hearings from going ahead today, but the minister refused to back it.

Judge Willie Seriti, who is heading the inquiry, revealed that he received the draft high court application on Sunday night in which concerns were raised.

He assured court action wouldn't be necessary as he agrees the commission is not properly constituted.

Seriti says the President is now considering how to deal with the problem.

"I was made to understand the timeframe will be between two and four days. I hope by the end of this week it would've been dealt with."

JUST ANOTHER WHITEWASH?

Meanwhile, anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne has cast doubt over the inquiry.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's Redi Tlhabi on Monday morning, Crawford-Browne said he was sceptical of the commission.

"It has been almost two years since the commission was very reluctantly appointed by President Zuma and I'm afraid they are floundering. I'm afraid they are avoiding the issues as well as the terms of reference they were given."

Crawford-Browne said he believes the commission has a second agenda.

"There's a mountain of evidence. There are seven books written about the arms deal and the commission supposedly now wants to restart the whole investigation going back 13 years which is nonsense. There are six terms of reference, given to the commission of which the Constitutional Court gave its consent order and they are floundering."

Meanwhile, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein has said the public needs to give the commission an opportunity when it does begin.

"But we are going to see immediately as The Sunday Times suggested, whether the commission is just another whitewash, or whether it's going to be a bit more serious than that as soon as they start cross-examining the first witnesses."

He complained about the commission's pace.

"The commission has been incredibly slow to get going. There has been a lot of talk by the people who've resigned of the second agenda, an attempt to discredit those who have raised corruption in the deal and unfortunately we've seen a number of incidents from the commission that points to this."