Arms commission hires top silks

The arms deal commission has strangely retained services of two top Gauteng advocates even though it is not facing any legal action.

Insiders close to the commission, which is probing the R70 billion arms procurement transaction, were taken aback by the retention of Advocate MacCaps Motimele and Advocate Busani Mabunda.

Advocates on a retainer charge between R5 000 and R16 000 a day, depending on their seniority, experience and the contract itself.

The Sunday Independent understands that the commission is currently paying its 10 evidence leaders around R25 000 a day each for senior counsel and R18 000 a day for each junior counsel.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi confirmed that two advocates were on a retainer, without disclosing their names, after it was threatened with court litigation. He declined to reveal the specific legal action. “Save to say that there were indeed threats of court litigation against the commission when an attorney and an advocate were retained by the commission, the rest of your enquiries relate to confidential matters which we are not prepared to divulge,” he said.

Baloyi, however, would not disclose how long the advocates would be retained for, and how much their services would cost.

To date, the only serious threat of legal action has come from anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne, who has warned that he would take the commission to court to compel it to subpoena the ANC. But the commission may also have received a second threat last month when witnesses Hennie van Vuuren, Andrew Feinstein and Paul Holden asked the Lawyers for Human Rights to challenge the commission after they received letters warning that the commission would not accept unlawfully obtained evidence and that they must state whether their information was classified. A decision was taken to deal with the matter when the hearings proceed in August.

Motimele referred questions to the commission, while Mabunda did not answer nor return calls and messages. Yesterday, Crawford-Browne told The Sunday Independent that while he had not taken any legal action yet, the commission suspected that he would, as he had indicated this in February when he visited its offices. His main concern is the unreasonable delays in commencing with the hearings, he said.

The commission has been dogged by controversy since it was established by President Jacob Zuma last year, and has so far failed to begin with the public hearings as it was meant to in March. It also suffered a blow when investigator Norman Moabi and researcher Kate Painting resigned, with the former claiming that commission chairman Judge Willie Seriti had a “second agenda”. It is not clear if the commission would meet its November deadline.