Reprieve for 4 big players in SA’s arms deal

2014-06-01 15:00

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Thabo Mbeki, Trevor Manuel, Ronnie Kasrils and Mosiuoa Lekota have been given another reprieve by the Seriti Commission of Inquiry.

The four were among the senior members of the ministerial committee which signed off on the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.

But the commission has repeatedly changed the dates on which the former president and his former ministers of finance, intelligence and defence are due to testify. It did so again on Friday.

Kasrils and Lekota were set down for this week with former secretary of defence Pierre Steyn due to be recalled later in the week.

Steyn has already testified. He told the commission that tender processes and policies that had existed prior to the arms deal were neglected and new policies were introduced in their place.

A commission source told City Press that the changes had been made during a meeting, which carried on late into Friday night, but could not provide reasons for the altered schedule.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which is representing arms deal critics Andrew Feinstein, Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden, said it had not yet been made aware of any changes to the schedule.

“Because Kasrils is supposed to testify [tomorrow] we have been requesting his statement so that we can prepare our defence, but we have not yet received the papers,” said David Cote, a lawyer with LHR.

Feinstein, a former ANC MP who now lives in London, said he was preparing to come to South Africa to cross-examine Kasrils, Lekota, Mbeki and Manuel.

He told City Press he and his legal team had not yet received any of the documents that would help them prepare their cross-examination.

Among the allegations the four may have to respond to are those made by Steyn in initial testimony last month.

He told the commission, which sits in Pretoria, that there had been an “unseemly hurry to procure arms”.

Steyn was defence secretary between 1994 and 1998?–?a ­position equivalent to a director-general?–?and was responsible for the defence budget. He said he was made to feel like a “nuisance” every time he raised concerns about the arms deal and irregular tender procedures.

The four will also need to respond to details contained in an affordability report that was declassified for use in the commission. In the report, analysts warned that the arms deal would not benefit South Africans.

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