Seriti Commission considers critics' withdrawal

Johannesburg - The Seriti Commission of Inquiry is considering the decision by three arms deal critics to withdraw from all proceedings, it said on Thursday.

"It appears to the Commission that these witnesses do not have evidence to put before it and want the commission to help them search for possible proof for the allegations of wrongdoing in the arms procurement process," spokesperson William Baloyi said in a statement.

"And if their approach is to be followed this commission will still be here in 2016 and possibly beyond."

Former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, author Paul Holden and Hennie van Vuuren announced on Thursday that they were withdrawing from the commission.

They said they could no longer co-operate with an institution that "is [so] deeply compromised that its primary outcome will be to cover up".

All three were expected to testify in the commission.

The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 arms deal.

Earlier, Feinstein said it was the commission's job to access all evidence available in the country and abroad, to assess its veracity, and to make it available to the public.

The critics have charged that the commission has not done this.

Van Vuuren said the decision to withdraw from the commission was not taken lightly and that the three critics believed the commission had missed its opportunity to support the struggle for transparency and accountability.

Asked if there were any legal implications in withdrawing, Holden said the subpoenas sent to the three had expired.

Feinstein was expected to testify at the commission on 4 August, Holden on 5 August, and Van Vuuren the day after.

Baloyi said the subpoenas that had been served remained valid and if they had lapsed they could be re-issued.

"The commission is considering their decision to no longer participate in its enquiry and a decision will be made at a later stage," he said.