Patricia de Lille questions Thabo Mbeki’s arms deal denial

2014-07-24 16:15

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Cape Town mayor and former Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille today questioned why former president Thabo Mbeki told the nation that there was no prima facie evidence in relation to the arms deal.

Legal authorities had said at the time that there was indeed a case to be investigated, she said during her testimony before the arms deal commission.

In September 1999 she had tabled a dossier containing a number of allegations of fraud, corruption and improprieties. The National Prosecuting Authority had then told her that there was a prima facie case that should be investigated.

She said the former president told the nation in a television address just a few hours later that there “was no prima facie evidence” regarding the allegations.

The arms deal commission should not make any recommendations to President Jacob Zuma without verifying the details of various police cases related to the controversial deal, De Lille insisted.

She told the commission she had no personal knowledge of the allegations made in the dossier, which she said she had received from concerned members of the ANC.

De Lille had spent two days evaluating the dossier before taking it to Parliament because she feared she was being used by the ANC MP who gave her the information, she said.

She refused to reveal the identities of the people who gave her the dossier in 1999 because she had promised to protect them.

De Lille also said that allegations of corruption against Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik had been investigated and the two were convicted based on information in the dossier – but allegations of corruption against Zuma had never been refuted “or even answered by him”.

It was of concern, she said, that the arms deal was “sold” to South Africans by politicians who claimed spending R30 billion on arms would result in offsets that included R110 billion in investments and 65 000 jobs – which never materialised.

She told the commission she believed the officials who came up with the offsets “lied” to politicians in order to coax them into agreeing to buy arms.

“We live in a country with high unemployment, especially among the youth. Creating expectations of jobs was misleading ... I have not seen any evidence to show the offsets were achieved,” said De Lille.

Evidence leader Advocate Simmy Lebala said officials from government and the SA National Defence Force had already testified that the offsets were merely “incidental” and not requirements for the country to enter into the arms deals.

“All the crooked arms deals in the world are structured with these offsets. There are a lot of crooks running around, making deals among themselves. It doesn’t mean it is correct to act in that way by projecting offsets and agreeing to deals,” replied De Lille.

She still believed the decision to purchase weapons was “morally incorrect”. The country had pressing needs in health, education and social welfare at the time.

De Lille said another case she opened with the Caledon Square police station in 2007, regarding 29 senior officials and politicians who received questionable discounted vehicles, had never been investigated.

“In fact, recently, this month I was told by the commander that the case docket is lost, gone.”

The commission had to investigate what happened to these cases before coming up with recommendations, she said.

De Lille added that she had been “vilified and crucified” after tabling the arms deal dossier containing the allegations.

“I was called names. I was called a useful idiot. I was followed ... The intimidation was so open. They tried to intimidate me but I was never intimidated,” she said.

Mbeki’s lawyers, Marumo Moerane and Mojanku Gumbi, were among a host of lawyers attending the proceedings today.

Before the lunch adjournment, Judge Willie Seriti asked the lawyers present to discuss whether continuing with De Lille’s testimony would be of any use to the commission, since she declared that she did not have any personal information regarding the allegations she had received in the dossier.

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