Anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne has objected to the closure of this afternoon’s session of the arms deal commission’s proceedings, as well as any subsequent sessions of the commission.
The morning session of today’s proceedings was open, but the later session was only open to lawyers and advocates.
Crawford-Browne wrote: “The Minister of Justice assured the people of South Africa in October 2011 that the commission would be an open and transparent process.
“More pertinently, the closure is in contempt of the Constitutional Court which in November 2011 gave its consent to the commission’s process and terms of reference.”
Crawford-Browne said he had travelled from Cape Town earlier than expected to put his objection before chairperson Judge Willie Seriti.
During the opening address this morning, evidence leader Tayob Aboobaker said the commission has come under extensive criticism from the media and members of the public, but this assisted them in refining their work.
Criticism levelled against the commission included the failure of the commission to work through millions of “classified” documents and all the delays it has incurred.
Two weeks ago the department of defence was allowed time to declassify records, but according to the two evidence leaders, some evidence will have to be heard in camera because it was classified.
In his application, Crawford-Browne said he was concerned the objections by the department to the commission’s use of reportedly classified documentation was merely a ploy to further prolong and complicate the commission’s work.
Aboobaker added the public nature and transparency of the process was absolutely critical to its success.
“Our plea to the executive is to make sure that all the documents, which the commission requires in order to make its findings, are available for use by the commission and for public scrutiny. What may have been regarded as confidential and classified many years ago may not deserve that classification today,” he said.
The proceedings also included opening statements from evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga who summarised the evidence that will be led in the weeks to come.
Tomorrow proceedings start at 9.30am with Rear Admiral AG Green’s evidence.
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