‘Mbeki and the Arms Deal : Is Ambassador Shielding the President?’
Statement by Eddie Trent MP
DA Spokesperson on the Arms Deal
16 July 2006
I will tomorrow write a follow-up letter to South Africa’s Ambassador to Washington, Ms Barbara Masekela, requesting that she clarify whether or not she organized a secret meeting between Thomson CSF and then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki on or around 17 December 1998, in her capacity as South Africa’s Ambassador to France.
I have to date received no response to my initial letter on this matter, which I sent to Ms Masekela’s office a month ago.
President Mbeki’s recent claim that all his dealings in the arms deal were conducted “by the book” appears odd, especially if one considers that, when asked about this particular meeting, he said that he could not “recall” if it ever took place.
How can everything have been conducted by the book if you cannot even recall what happened?
The DA is in possession of a fax from Thomson CSF which indicates that such a meeting did take place and was organized by Ms Masekela.
Documents in the DA’s possession seem to indicate that both Masekela and Mbeki played a part in securing the arms contract for Thomson CSF. Other documents (also referred to in the July edition of Noseweek) suggest that Ambassador Masekela had business links with Thomson CSF. One fax indicates that Masekela authorized a Johannesburg businessman, Jurgen Kogl, to represent her business interests in Thomson CSF because “for ethical reasons, being an ambassador to Paris, it was not possible to link her with a French company.”
If the meeting did take place, then it would have been in violation of tender procedures. Certainly there appear to be conflict of interest concerns with regard to the Ambassador.
It is very simple to resolve this matter. If the President did meet with Thomson CSF he needs to state what the purpose of that meeting was, why it was conducted in secret, what its outcome was and what role was played by the Ambassador. If, on the other hand, he did not attend the meeting then either he or Ms Masekela need to state as much, for the record.
Silence and uncertainty will only serve to fuel speculation that something is amiss.
Eddie Trent – 083 600 8949
Gareth van Onselen – 073 179 5957
With acknowledgements to Eddie Trent and the DA.