Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2005-12-20 Reporter: Angela Quintal Reporter: Reporter:

DA Plans to 'Jog' President's Memory on a Meeting with French Arms Firm



Cape Times

Date 2005-12-20


Angela Quintal

Web Link


President Thabo Mbeki may not recall whether he met executives of a French arms company implicated in arms deal corruption, but DA MP Eddie Trent plans to do everything possible to "jog" the president's memory.

Trent believes he received a "completely unsatisfactory and obfuscatory" reply from Mbeki to a parliamentary question last week and wants more answers.

He plans to write immediately to the president, attaching several documents which might "jog" the president's memory. If necessary, he will table another parliamentary question to the president in the new year when MPs return to parliament, Trent told the Cape Times yesterday.

"We have further strong documentary evidence we believe underpins the fact that the president did ... meet with Thomson-CSF to discuss a particular matter concerning the awarding of the corvette combat suite contract ...".

The saga is part of a six-month battle by Trent to establish whether Mbeki, when he was still deputy president, met executives of French arms company Thomson-CSF (now called Thales) in Paris on or about December 17, 1998.

Thales's local subsidiary, Thint, is facing prosecution, with axed deputy president Jacob Zuma, for alleged corruption arising out of the arms deal. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Mbeki's long-awaited reply, was buried in a slew of replies published by parliament's questions office on Thursday.

"The president does not recall such a meeting," it says.

Trent's question was based on two faxes from Thomson-CSF, both of which named Mbeki. The one indicated Mbeki had met Thomson CSF executives in France in December 1998.

The fax to Mbeki was from Thomson-CSF senior vice-president B de Bollardiere, which confirmed they had met. Mbeki headed the ministerial committee overseeing the arms deal at the time.

The documentation is apparently part of the court documents in the Schabir Shaik trial, said Trent.

Yesterday, Trent said that in addition to the two faxes, he would send a copy of an apparent internal memo, allegedly by Bollardiere dated November 27, 1998.

The memo, on a Thomson-CSF International letterhead, is unsigned but the top righthand corner contains the initials BPB, which Trent believes are Bollardiere's initials.

The memo refers to Thomson's successful dealings in the civil sector, but notes it has been less successful in the South Africa defence industry.

It also refers to the fact that Thint "privately had access six months ago to your President (sic) T Mbeki and at that time handed him the name of partner (the company CNI) to play the 'black empowerment' role in ADS and to thus be our political guarantee *1".

The memo notes that CNI declined the offer "and we are currently trying to give this role to one of the member companies of the local consortium, FBS (Futuristic Business Solutions) which seems to have received the backing of the ANC *1."

The memorandum under a heading "question to be put to Mr T Mbeki" lists four questions including: "We have integrated the Nkobi Group (of Schabir Shaik) into our capital at the level of the Thomson CSF holding. Is this still a good choice? And if yes, is it sufficient to comply with the black economic empowerment requirements?"

One of the losing bidders, arms deal contractor Richard Young , said last week Mbeki's response in the face of the fax, indicate that there was no innocent explanation for the December meeting.

With acknowledgements to Angela Quintal and Cape Times.

*1  Bumiputera - busted.

The Fishers of Corrupt Men once again land an excellent catch.

The secret of fishing is - the right bait, at the right spot, at the right tide and lots of patience - and then there is the strike.

But in the sunny RSA a fisher doesn't have to wait that long before one amongst the target species takes a nibble, indeed.