|Publication||Mail & Guardian|
Deputy President Jacob Zuma has refused to answer questions about whether he met a French defence company executive in Durban on March 11 2000.
The Scorpions are investigating whether on that day Zuma met Alain Thetard and Schabir Shaik and made a coded request for a R500 000-a-year bribe. Thetard is an executive of the French Thompson-CSF/Thales group, which controls Shaik's African Defence Systems. According to a letter allegedly written by Thetard to his French bosses, Zuma had, in exchange, offered his protection to the company in the light of probes into how it had secured its multimillion-rand South African arms contracts.
Zuma this week declined to confirm or deny whether he was in Durban on that day and whether the meeting took place. His spokesman Lakela Kaunda said Zuma would not respond to specific questions.
But in an interview with Independent Newspapers Zuma admitted he might know Thetard.
Meanwhile, the Scorpions's bid to crack open allegations surrounding the arms deal and Zuma was dealt a setback on Thursday with the acquittal of Ian Pierce. Pierce, who had been charged with ignoring a summons to appear before investigators, giving false evidence and failing to provide documents about the financial affairs of Futuristic Business Solutions (FBS), of which he is a director. He was found not guilty on all counts.
FBS, a shareholder in African Defence Systems, was one of the companies being probed by the Scorpions for, among other things, any indications of a link with Zuma.
A further setback to exposing details of the arms deal also emerged this week. Auditor General Shauket Fakie on Monday lodged an application to appeal against a ruling forcing him to make public all drafts of the controversial arms deal investigation report.
Earlier this year Cape Town businessman Richard Young succeeded in obtaining the first high court ruling in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Pretoria High Court Judge Willie Hartzenberg ordered Fakie to make available all the drafts and, in addition, all materials relating to the investigation of a complaint laid by Young concerning the loss by his company of a sub-contract in the deal. The contract went to companies in the Thales group.
With acknowledgements to Sam Sole and Mail & Guardian.