Nelson Mandela supported arms deal – Ronnie Kasrils

2014-06-06 17:42

Former deputy minister of defence Ronnie Kasrils today told the Seriti Commission about his role in the arms deal procurement process.

Five things to know about Kasrils’ first day on the stand:

1. I wasn’t part of it:

Kasrils says he had no say in the decisions made to purchase the arms. He says his position of deputy minister was to advise and give assistance to the minister, Joe Modise.

“It’s not possible that the minister would brief the deputy on everything that they do. I was privy to some of the information, but not everything,” said Kasrils.

He testified that if he was asked to chair a couple of meetings in the absence of Modise, he would debrief the minister and would make the decisions Modise would have.

2. Window Shopping:

A letter was signed in September 1997 requesting 11 countries to send information of what they could offer South Africa in terms of the country’s defence strategic needs. The Defence Review, which was always hailed as the reasoning behind the large purchase, had not yet been adopted by Parliament. Advocate Simmy Lebala asked how the requests for offers and requests for information to companies could be sent out without the completion of the defence review. Kasrils said that the country was only “window shopping” at the time.

3. Sshhh don’t tell anyone about the R26 billion:

An amount of R26 billion had been quoted for the whole armaments package. Kasrils said he was present at a meeting where Modise said the country should not know that there is such a figure floating about.

“We didn’t want the world to know that we might have problems in finding the funds,” said Kasrils. But after 17 years, the figure seems to have doubled.

4. Mandela supported the deal:

“I had great confidence in President Mandela, who at the beginning of that year [1998] on public record made it clear that the government was behind the whole project. I had great confidence in our cabinet and in our minister of finance and minister of trade and industry. They were upbeat and they were behind this project,” said Kasrils.

5. An unprepared evidence leader:

On numerous occasions during Kasrils’ testimony, Judge Willie Seriti said Lebala should get to the crux of his examination.

“I thought the deputy minister played a certain role at a particular level. Now the advocate is busy with letters about [requests for information] and [requests for offers]. I’m not quite sure what point Lebala is trying to make, that’s why we kept quiet,” said Seriti.

The commission has been adjourned until Monday morning for the testimony of Jayendra Naidoo. Kasrils will be recalled to finish his testimony on Tuesday.

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