'Arms deal was necessary'

The second witness has testified in the Arms Deal Commission's hearings.

The Arms Deal Commission of Inquiry is being held at the Sammy Marks Conference Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Belinda Moses/EWN

PRETORIA - Admiral Rusty Higgs, the second witness to take the stand in the Arms Deal Commission's first phase of public hearings, believes the controversial arms deal acquisition was in line with South Africa's constitution.

The commission resumed on Monday after a two week postponement in order to sort out the classification of documents and the composition of the commission.

The inquiry into the multibillion Rand deal, which was set up by President Jacob Zuma in 2011, are investigating allegations of corruption.

Higgs, a member of the South African navy, told the commission that in his view, the arms deal fitted the country's needs at the time and was necessary to protect and defend South Africa's borders.

Members of the navy are the first witnesses lined up to testify as part of the commission's first phase of public hearings.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also expected to give evidence on the jobs that were created through the arms deal.

Higgs has been testifying about the importance of the use of force and how this shaped the now arms deal.He said the use of force is integral in any military in the world.

He told the commission that both people and resources are needed for the proper functioning of the defence force.

MORE SETBACKS

The commission has faced several setbacks since being established, casting its credibility into the spotlight.

The latest setback was the withdrawal of former president Thabo Mbeki's lawyer Max Boqwana from the inquiry on Tuesday.

Boqwana was also representing Mbeki's former cabinet ministers who have been called to give evidence at the inquiry.

No objections were made by other evidence leaders to Boqwana's withdrawal.

His exit coincided with the first witness, Admiral Alan Green of the South African Navy, taking the stand.

Green gave a technical overview of what was needed at the time and how resources were used, saying the force design was modest.

"The SANDF doesn't act autonomously, we only employ our forces where directed by government - that is how we base our decisions as to what the force design will express."

BROWNE'S APPLICATION DISMISSED

Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Willie Seriti, who is heading the inquiry, dismissed an objection brought by anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne.

Crawford-Browne recently wrote a scathing letter to Judge Seriti objecting to a closed session.

He said a closed session would not be transparent and cheated South Africans from knowing everything about the controversial deal.

Crawford-Browne has been outspoken about the arms deal for more than a decade and said any closed session of the commission is actually illegal as it doesn't sit well with the commission's terms of reference and keeps South Africans in the dark.

He also objected to some documents that were classified by the defence department, saying this was just a ploy to prolong the commission's work.

But Judge Seriti threw his application out, saying it was nothing new and the commission is working properly.