Arms deal: Mbeki vs what we know

2014-07-20 10:51

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Former president Thabo Mbeki appeared at the arms deal commission this week. We compare what is known about the deal with what Mbeki told the commission.

1. Commissions or bribes?

Thabo Mbeki: “The mere fact of paying a commission to somebody who is commissioned is not a bribe to that person, it becomes a bribe when the person who is the decision maker is bought?...?as I understand it, normally that kind of commission is not hidden necessarily because it is not illegal ...”

What we know: If these commissions were legal, why did arms company British Aerospace (BAE) Systems hide them? In a plea agreement with the US State Department in 2011, BAE Systems admitted that the “company or its representative Red Diamond made payments to brokers involved in securing the sale to South Africa. [BAE] failed to disclose payments as required ...”

The lead Scorpions investigator into the arms deal later wrote in an affidavit that Fana Hlongwane, special adviser to then defence minister Joe Modise, ­received payments from Red Diamond in “suspicious ways”.

2. Where’s the evidence?

Mbeki: “You have somebody who makes this allegation, all manner of corruption has taken place. Everybody, certainly during the time I was in government, wanted to act on this, [we] kept hoping people who make allegations will produce evidence.”

What we know: Last year, the Mail & Guardian published part of a 2007 letter from former national director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe to Mbeki’s former justice minister Brigitte Mabandla. Mpshe was ­responsible for the Scorpions, which ­investigated the arms deal.

“In my opinion, the failure by any South African investigating agency to ­investigate the reported allegations of grave criminality committed in our country?...?is becoming ever more embarrassing,” wrote Mpshe.

“The apparently damning evidence at the disposal of the German authorities [investigating corruption in their country] cries out for investigation. The failure to do so is indefensible.”

In August, City Press revealed that 4.7?million pages of documentary evidence about the deal, collected by the Scorpions, was gathering dust at the Hawks headquarters in Silverton, Pretoria.

3. Was the state careful with taxpayers’ money?

Mbeki: “As to the matter of costs, no decisions were taken by [the interministerial committee] or Cabinet which excluded costs. None. Indeed, the whole procurement was discussed in the context of what the other national challenges are.”

What we know: Advocate Anna-Marie de Vos, cross-examining Mbeki, asked why the Hawk fighter-trainer aircraft was picked over the Aermacchi MB-339 if costs were always considered.

The Hawk cost R2.6?billion more. Former defence secretary General Pierre Steyn wanted to exclude the Hawk from bidding because of the cost, but was overruled by Modise, who said the “political decision needed must not revolve around operational aspects of the aircraft”.?

» Get City Press newspaper today for the full story, including how Mbeki was largely unfazed during his testimony at the commission.

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