Publication: Cape Times
Reporter: Angela Quintal
DA Plans to 'Jog' President's Memory on a Meeting with French Arms Firm
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
"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,
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
"The president does not recall such a meeting," it
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.
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.
refers to Thomson's successful dealings in the civil sector, but notes it has
been less successful in the South Africa defence industry.
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
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
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
With acknowledgements to Angela Quintal and Cape Times.
*1 Bumiputera - busted.
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