Seriti Commission: No comment on bribery report

2014-09-29 05:00
Former president Thabo Mbeki is seen at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal in Pretoria. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Former president Thabo Mbeki is seen at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal in Pretoria. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Sunday said it would withhold comment on a report of arms deal-linked bribery allegations against President Jacob Zuma until it went through the transcripts.

"The commission will withhold comment until such time that we have gone through the relevant portion of the transcript that is being referred to," spokesperson William Baloyi said.

"We will then make a determination after we have gone through the transcript, but for now we withhold comment."

Earlier, The Sunday Times newspaper detailed allegations that in 2000, Zuma accepted a R500 000 a year bribe from Ajay Sooklal, a 'fixer' for French Arms company Thales by using the code words "Eiffel tower".

Zuma apparently signalled his acceptance by remarking during a meeting with Alain Thetard, the then-head of Thales South African subsidiary Thint, that "I see the Eiffel Tower lights are shining today".

Thint is one of the companies linked to the country's arms-deal controversy. In 1997, Thint was awarded a multi-billion rand contract to equip four new navy frigates with combat suites.

The claims detailed in the Sunday Times emerged from transcripts of testimony provided in a confidential arbitration hearing between Sooklal and Thales over a fee dispute.

'Allegations not new'

The Presidency said there was "nothing new in the allegations".

"The Presidency has noted the allegations that have been repeated in the Sunday Times today [Sunday] seeking to link President Jacob Zuma to whatever wrongdoing is alleged by critics of the arms deal," said presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj in a statement.

Asked by Sapa why an outright denial of the allegations was not declared in the Presidency's statement on Sunday, Maharaj said that the matter was before the commission investigating allegations of corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand deal.

"That is where the matter will be interrogated. We are not engaging through the media on the matter. There is only one official enquiry."

Earlier, African National Congress national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa dismissed the Sunday Times article as just "rumour-mongering" and "hearsay".

Zuma is also president of the ANC.

"The story is not correct. It's about keeping suspicion on Zuma and the ANC."

He denied an allegation detailed in the article that former ANC treasurer general Mendi Msimang was given a cheque for one million euros by Thales.

"The ANC has never received such a donation."

The Seriti Commission

Kodwa said that such claims were only designed to create the impression that the ANC was "beholden to certain unscrupulous organisations, associations or companies".

Nevertheless, he said the party was not perturbed about such tactics.

Kodwa had earlier also said that those who believed that they had pertinent information about the arms deal should go to the Seriti commission.

Zuma established the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in 2011 to probe alleged corruption that took place when government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.

In April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped charges of corruption that had been levelled against Zuma in relation to the arms deal, citing a political conspiracy against Zuma which made it impossible to proceed.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  arms deal

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