THE Department of Defence and its procurement agency‚ Arsmcor‚ relented on Monday to the Seriti commission’s demand to have all arms deal documents declassified and made available for scrutiny.
Advocate Richard Solomon SC‚ Armscor’s legal representative‚ told the commission on Monday that all processes required to declassify the sensitive documents on the weaponry systems of the various military gadgets such as submarines‚ frigates and fighter jets were concluded in the week-and-a-half the hearings had been adjourned by the commission chairman‚ Judge Willie Seriti.
The attempt by the department and Armscor to exclude "classified sensitive documents” was the first significant hurdle for the commission. Judge Seriti had refused to accept that certain technical documents on military weapons were classified and inaccessible to his inquiry. The commission was adjourned to give "Armscor ample time to get documents declassified” by the Department of Defence.
Armscor’s project manager for submarines‚ Rob Vermeulen‚ told the commission two weeks ago that he planned to hold back only "certain information mainly of a technical nature” which would compromise both the navy and defence industry.
He said if he divulged information such as the maximum dive depth of a submarine‚ it would compromise the South African Navy’s fighting capability and reveal a product’s characteristics‚ which could in turn be used by competitors.
Resuming his testimony as the second witness representing Armscor on Monday‚ Mr Vermeulen changed his tune‚ saying a lot of the information about the submarines was already in the public domain and there was nothing the could embarrass the manufacturers.
"In my testimony I believe there is no information that could be regarded as detrimental as the deal took place a long time ago‚” he said.
The evidence leader‚ Sammy Lebala SC‚ was visibly pleased with Armscor’s change of heart‚ saying his team would make reference to the documents and extract the relevant information that would assist the commission.
Mr Vermeulen was then sworn in and continued with his testimony. The hearing continues. © BDlive 2013