If the allegations of conflict of interest within the Arms Deal probe by a former investigator are found to be true, and evidence of corruption surfaces, then President Jacob Zuma should dismiss the commissioners.
This is the view of Hennie van Vuuren, co-author of The Devil in the Detail and fellow at the Open Society Foundation of South Africa, who spoke to Corruption Watch on Friday.
The latest controversy comes in the wake of the resignation of a senior investigator, former acting judge Norman Moabi, who alleged that the impartiality of the commission could not be guaranteed, and that processes within it are not transparent.
The commission is headed by Constitutional Court Judge Willie Seriti, and has been dogged by controversy since its establishment in early 2012. In May of the same year advocate Mvuseni Ngubane, who was secretary of the commission, committed suicide at his Pinetown home, although the police have not found evidence to suggest that his death was linked to the work of the commission.
Media reports also revealed that two of the commission’s investigators had questionable backgrounds related to positions they had previously held within government.
In December last year, activist Terry Crawford-Browne raised issues with the “glaring omissions” from the list of commission witnesses, which he said should have included former president Thabo Mbeki, former minister of public enterprises Alec Erwin and Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.
Van Vuuren is of the view that Moabi’s allegations, particularly one that senior officials of the commission had already formed opinions about witnesses they were expected to call forward, is especially important.
“President Jacob Zuma should carefully review this and other allegations pertaining to the commission.”
“For someone who has been an acting judge to make such allegations against an institution of such importance means that the matter must be viewed in a serious light.”
Paul Hoffman, who was Crawford-Browne’s lawyer during the latter’s court battle to get government to establish a probe into the controversial arms deal, was quoted in the Mail & Guardian on Friday as saying the onus is on Judge Seriti to speak out.
“Seriti is opening himself up to an application for his recusal if he doesn’t adequately deal with the claims made in the resignation letter,” Hoffman told the paper.
Van Vuuren said some of the witnesses expected to come forward are experts who have worked hard on the evidence they are expected to give.
“I don’t think the process of the commission must be started over from scratch, but the allegations it has faced thus far must be looked into urgently.”