Arms commission: With or without lawyer, Mbeki ‘has to appear’

2013-08-21 08:02

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With or without legal representation, former president Thabo Mbeki will have to appear before the arms deal commission, its spokesperson, William Baloyi, has said.

Baloyi’s comment follows the withdrawal of Mbeki’s legal representation yesterday pending confirmation of legal assistance from government for Mbeki and members of Cabinet.

“With or without legal representation he (Mbeki) will have to come before the commission,” said Baloyi.

Earlier yesterday, Max Boqwana, for Mbeki, said there were a “number of issues which needed to be clarified” before they would return to the commission.

According to the regulations of the commission any witnesses is allowed to have legal representation – but at their own cost.

According to a statement released by Mukoni Ratshitanga, the former president’s spokesperson, the withdrawal was due to the pending confirmation of legal assistance from government.

“The position will be reviewed once the government has made a determination on legal assistance to the former president,” said Ratshitanga.

Asked for further clarification Ratshitanga referred back to the statement.

Said Baloyi: “This dispute is between Mbeki and the department of justice. This is not a court of law where people need legal representation. We call upon a person implicated by others or by the information we have to come clear their name,” he said.

Mbeki has been subpoenaed and is due to testify early next year about his role in the multi-billion rand arms procurement deal.

Yesterday, the commission heard that arms purchased as part of the arms deal were necessary for the armed forces to fulfil their constitutional mandate.

This was the testimony of Rear Admiral Allan Green on the second day of the commission’s hearings in Pretoria.

Green was the first from the navy to testify on the rationale behind the procurement of the arms and the utilisation of the equipment.

Green testified that the allegations made in the media about the underutilisation of the arms were untrue.

“The equipment acts as a deterrent, therefore it is being utilised. Just because one doesn’t see these vessels flying every day, that doesn’t mean they aren’t being utilised. The equipment is functional, though at times in various states of maintenance. This is known as military asset life cycle,” he said.

Green said after 1994 the force decreased in size, but the equipment they had was old and needed to be replaced. He reiterated many times that as a force they would not have been able to meet their constitutional mandate if they had not purchased new equipment.

“If there was no such mandate, there would have been no need to purchase such an insurance policy (equipment),” he said.

Admiral Robert William Higgs from the navy will be the first to testify this morning when the hearings resume.

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