Transparency needed in arms probe: R2K


A fully transparent process is required at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry to expose alleged corruption and abuses of power linked to the arms deal, the Right2Know (R2K) campaign said on Monday.

“R2K is concerned by reports of attempts by the Seriti Commission to limit the public's right to know,” the lobby group said in a statement.

“This includes the secrecy surrounding the list of Armscor witnesses and the limited access to witness statements.”

Right2Know also noted the limited cross-examination of witnesses by evidence leaders risked the commission being seeing as a one-sided process.

Commission spokesman William Baloyi said: “First, I acknowledge the statement has been brought to the commission's attention by the Lawyers for Human Rights (R2K's legal representatives at the commission) who were present at today's (Monday's) session.

“However, as the statement was handed over during proceedings, the commission has not had a chance to review it. We will look at the statement and respond accordingly.”

Another concern noted by R2K was witnesses to the commission, particularly civil society activists, not being given access to information held by the commission that they needed in order to cross-examine witnesses.

“The establishment of the commission two years ago was a victory for civil society groups,” the lobby group said.

“For almost 15 years, R2K supporters and allies have been asking the difficult question: 'Why did South Africa buy weapons we cannot afford while the government cut back on critical social spending?'“

The answer possibly lay in a corrupt relationship between South African security officials, politicians, a mix of local and global businessmen, and large arms corporations.

“The arms deal is a good example of why the securocrats support the unconstitutional secrecy bill 1/8Protection of State Information Bill 3/8,” R2K said.

“The secrecy bill will make it even harder for the truth to be brought to light and shared among the millions of people who have to bear the cost of such deals.”

The commission was increasingly looking like a whitewash, suggesting those guilty of corruption in the arms deal might prevail in covering up the truth.

“To restore public faith in this process, the commission must, through its actions, recommit itself to the public’s right to know,” R2K said.

“R2K calls on Judge Seriti to show leadership on these issues, to ensure that public confidence in the commission is restored and above all, to prevent a whitewash by the securocrats and their corrupt networks.”