For years, President Jacob Zuma has been implicated as one of the people who benefitted from the controversial arms deal which was material in the case against Schabir Shaik. Schabir Shaik was President Jacob Zuma’s friend and financial adviser. In 2005, Shaik was convicted of corruption but was released from prison shortly thereafter due to his deteriorating health.
Eight years later, it is up to President Zuma to make decisions that will directly influence the progress of the inquiry into the arms deal. The biggest challenge seems to be the validity of the Arms Procurement Commission. The military and other key witnesses question the validity of the commission. They insist that the commission does not have the required number of members for it to be considered valid. This comes after Justice Malesela Francis Legodi resigned last week. President Zuma is the only one who can make the call about the composition of the commission.
In a statement issued by the presidency on Tuesday, President Zuma said that he will not replace Justice Legodi. It reads: “President Zuma has reconstituted the Commission and it is now composed of Justice Willie Seriti as its Chairperson and Justice Thekiso Musi as a member.”
Another hurdle which may cause further delays is the declassification of documents with information that could be helpful in the inquiry. Should it happen that the documents are declassified; witnesses and their teams of lawyers will need time to become familiar with the information in the documents. The hearings lasted for an hour on Monday. They were postponed until 19 August.
This postponement adds to the list of concerns around the arms deal inquiry. By the time the hearings resume in two weeks, there will only be eleven weeks left for the commission to conclude this matter. With the range of problems which are evident, wrapping up the inquiry on 4 November looks like an excessively ambitious target.