Mbeki Adamant He Has Not Been Party to Foreign Probe
No need for judicial inquiry into arms deal claims
In another concerted effort to quash renewed rumours calling into question President Thabo Mbeki's integrity and his involvement in the multibillion-rand arms deal, his office has responded to a number or parliamentary queries raised by opposition parties.
This followed Wednesday's attempt by Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, his Public Enterprises counterpart Alec Erwin and Justice Department Director-General Menzi Simelane, who stated emphatically that Mbeki's hands were clean.
Weekend reports alleged that Mbeki had received a R30-million bribe from a German consortium in exchange for the R6-billion contract to supply three submarines to the SA Navy.
A Sunday paper quoted a report by a UK risk consultancy group, stating that Mbeki had transferred R2-million of the alleged bribe to ANC president Jacob Zuma and the remainder was put into ANC coffers.
In a written response to Democratic Alliance questions, Mbeki yesterday again denied ever having been approached by any investigation agency other than the SA Joint Investigating Team (JIT) that was tasked to probe initial rumours concerning irregular dealings during the negotiations.
"Besides the reports and briefings that the president received as head of state and of government on matters pertaining to the security of the republic, or queries during the JIT investigation … the president has not been approached by any investigation agency," his office said.
Mbeki again also denied being able to recall attending a meeting with French arms manufacturer Thomson CSF a week before the company was allegedly awarded a R1,3-billion stake in the arms deal.
At the time of the meeting, Mbeki, then deputy president, was chairperson of the interdepartmental committee overseeing the arms deal.
While Mbeki's office acknowledges that Thomson CSF had requested a meeting, it denied having any recollection of the two parties ever getting together.
"As previously stated, the president has no recollection of the meeting. It is axiomatically obvious that the president would have vivid knowledge of a meeting if it were of such great importance, as alleged by the opposition," his office said.
This is not the first time Mbeki has claimed not to have remembered attending the meeting, which was set up by SA's ambassador to France at the time, Barbara Masekela.
However, an earlier investigation by his own party had also urged the president to "disclose in detail the contents of his discussions with the different role players (Thompson CSF), as well as details of the role played by Barbara Masekela".
In March this year, business magnate and senior ANC leader Tokyo Sexwale even made an "impassioned plea" at a meeting of the party's national executive committee for Mbeki "to take the ANC into his confidence".
The president also shot down the possibility of a judicial inquiry, arguing that the German-led investigation into allegations of corruption had itself stalled as a result of a lack of information.
This comes after the Dusseldorf public prosecutor's office in June closed its investigations into the multibillion-rand sale of four corvettes to the SA Navy. Senior ANC members were alleged to have received huge kickbacks for the deal, and there was even speculation that Mbeki was somehow implicated, although no evidence to back this has ever been presented and the government has warned that such speculation was defamatory.
"Given that there has already been a thorough investigation of the matter in South Africa, and given that the full resources of our criminal justice system are available to deal with any evidence that any individual has broken the law, government is of the view that there is no need for a judicial inquiry," he said.
With acknowledgements to Boyd Webb and The Star.