Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-05 Reporter: Hopewell Radebe

De Lille Accused of Disrespect Towards Mbeki



Business Day

Date 2003-09-05


Hopewell Radebe

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Government has accused Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille of being disrespectful of President Thabo Mbeki in suggesting he may have used his office to influence the outcome of the bidding process in the multibillion-rand arms deal.

De Lille suggested that Mbeki might have been instrumental in an about-turn in the short-listing of bidders to provide four corvettes and three submarines and called for a probe into the matter.

Government yesterday dismissed the claims as "based on blatant lies". "We are astounded at the ease with which she elects to question the integrity of the president," government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said.

He said De Lille as an MP and leader of a political party should at least accord Mbeki the courtesy of exercising "caution and circumspection before levelling" all kinds of allegations against him.

"She is regurgitating baseless allegations, more than 18 months after the joint investigation of the auditor-general, the public protector and the national directorate of public prosecutions pronounced on the integrity of the work done by the inter-ministerial committee chaired by then deputy president Mbeki," a government statement said.

The presidency argued that De Lille's statement reflected her total misunderstanding of the course of events in the arms deal bidding process.

Government reiterated its stance that the procurement process was handled in a professional manner.

With acknowledgements to Hopewell Radebe and the Business Day.