Seriti wants full disclosure

Pretoria - The Seriti Commission of Inquiry wants former DA MP Raenette Taljaard to reveal everything she knows regarding the 1999 arms deal, chairperson Judge Willie Seriti said on Thursday.

"She needs to tell us as much as she knows about what happened during the procurement. She knows our terms of reference. In her book, she deals to a great [length] with section 1.5 which is about criminality.

"If it is going to be an academic lecture of what should have happened and what should not have happened, I am not sure if that is going to help us.

"We are interested in knowing what happened in the procurement," Seriti said at the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.

Taljaard was led in submitting evidence on Thursday by the inquiry's evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga.

At the onset of her testimony, the University of Cape Town lecturer and Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) commissioner said she had had reservations about testifying on certain contentious matters.

"Section 92 of the Electoral Commission Act indicates that commissioners, in terms of their conduct, should not be expressing themselves on matters that are in contention between parties. I was advised by the evidence leaders that I am still able to testify as broadly as possible.

"I had reservations but I was given legal opinion last night by the evidence leaders," said Taljaard.

Her 2012 book "Up in Arms: Pursuing Accountability for the Arms Deal in Parliament" details the multi-billion rand strategic defence procurement package, the deal, and the oversight role of Parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa).

Taljaard was elected to the National Assembly for the Democratic Alliance in 1999 and became a Scopa member the same year.

Extracts queried

Seriti said he wanted Taljaard to explain remarks she made in her book.

"I've seen her book, I have gone through the book. I am much more interested in the things she mentions in her book. I will not want a situation where she says she can't talk about other things.

"I don't think she can withhold some information from us because of her current position. I really don't think her current position stops her from giving evidence here," said Seriti.

Taljaard said she would be candid with the inquiry but would also be careful of her constitutional responsibilities at the IEC.

"There will be times where I will feel that those duties and obligations to the Constitution may be in conflict with some of the issues that will arise," she said.

"That will in no way deter me from expressing myself with candour, that is the way I have always expressed myself in the public arena. I do have a duty to the Constitution and to the obligations in the Electoral Commission Act that I believe would override in certain cases."

President Jacob Zuma announced the establishment of the commission in October 2011 to probe allegations of corruption in the arms procurement deal.

Government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.