Ships ‘honestly obtained’

2008-09-05 00:00

President Thabo Mbeki yesterday defended the deal to acquire submarines for the South African Navy, and said there was no corruption involved in the process.

He was addressing more than a thousand navy personnel and members of the public at the presidential fleet review held at Simon’s Town in Cape Town.

Mbeki said that “as your Commander-in-Chief and president of the republic, I want to assure you that the new ships you sail and aircraft you fly, given to you by our democratic order, were obtained without corrupt means”.

He said the decision to acquire the equipment was informed by the outcome of a widely consultative review.

He urged the audience to ignore rumours about the acquisition of the military equipment they are using.

“Please rest assured that whatever mischievous story or rumour any among our people and others abroad may choose to propagate, the modern and sophisticated equipment you now control and operate was obtained honestly …”

The Sunday Times reported last month that Mbeki was allegedly paid R30 million by German shipbuilders MAN Ferrostaal to guarantee it would receive the R6 billion-plus contract to supply the submarines.

Rear-Admiral Robert Higgs concurred with Mbeki, adding that it had been in the best interest of the country to acquire the submarines and the frigates.

Higgs said the presidential fleet review will vindicate the decision to buy these submarines because they will be used to defend South Africa”.

Higgs said the first presidential fleet review within the democratic dispensation was held in 1997 when the fleet was presented to then president Nelson Mandela.

“It was Mandela’s vision that our navy be upgraded,” he said.

The purpose of the review was to present the new fleet to Mbeki as the Commander-in-Chief as well as to showcase the equipment to the country’s citizens.

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