Mbeki features in arms inquiry

2013-10-29 00:00

FORMER president Thabo Mbeki’s name was mentioned for the first time yesterday at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal scandal of the late 1990s.

This was after advocate Simmy Leballa, an evidence leader, put it to Armscor’s Byral Smith, the project leader during the purchase of the navy’s new frigates, that documents showed the Spanish ship building company Bazan was the first choice in 1995 to build the ships.

A recommendation on the Spanish bid was sent to cabinet, but this was sent back.

Shortly after this Mbeki — then still deputy president to Nelson Mandela — visited Germany and convinced a German frigate consortium to submit a new bid after the SA government had re-opened the entire process.

The first German bid was allegedly “too expensive and too sophisticated”.

Mbeki chaired the cabinet sub-committee that had to check the army’s weapon purchases.

Smith testified that he viewed the bids as separate processes.

It was decided to have a second bid process after the publication of a White Paper on Defence in the Defence Review of 1998, which was used to determine the defensive role in the future.

The contract was awarded to the German consortium during this second bid process.

South Africa initially wanted five frigates, but then could only afford four.

Mbeki will testify to the commission in person, possibly at the end of January next year.

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