Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2008-08-11 Reporter: Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

Mbeki Silent Over Pikoli Claim of Legal Adviser Meeting



The Star



Reporter Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

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MAN Ferrostaal defends arms deal offset projects

As the storm over the arms deal saga rages on, the Presidency has refused to be drawn into claims that the Scorpions had met with President Thabo Mbeki's legal adviser.

This was after suspended National Prosecuting Authority boss Vusi Pikoli revealed that the Scorpions had sought a meeting with Mbeki to quiz him on meetings he was said to have held with foreign arms company executives at the time he spearheaded the cabinet committee charged with securing the arms deal.

Pikoli said Mbeki had referred the Scorpions' investigators to his legal adviser, advocate Mojanku Gumbi.

Former Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy, who left the country three months ago to join the World Bank, had wanted to meet Mbeki, Pikoli said.

Although members of the Scorpions had met with Gumbi around 2006, it was not clear what the outcome of the discussions were, Pikoli said.

This seemingly flies in the face of the Presidency asserting no investigative agency had approached Mbeki for assistance with their probes - most recently claimed in a parliamentary answer last week.

Presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said he was not in a position to comment on the claims by Pikoli, and revelations in the Sunday Times that offset projects from arms procurement did not result in the creation of thousands of jobs, as promised by German firm MAN Ferrostaal.

Ratshitanga reiterated earlier statements that Mbeki was taking legal advice against the Sunday Times.

MAN Ferrostaal yesterday also stated it was taking legal advice on the media reports, and denied it had paid bribes to Mbeki, ANC president Jacob Zuma or any public official.

Rejecting the report that offset projects did not yield jobs in South Africa, company spokesperson Daniel Reinhardt said their projects were well under way.

"The one for Armscor, the national procurement office, has successfully been fulfilled, and as stated in a letter by Armscor, actually has been over-fulfilled.

"With its offset projects executed so far, MAN Ferrostaal has made a substantial contribution to the SA economy, having invested several hundreds of million rands, and having saved and created several thousands of jobs," said Reinhardt.

There was a production facility for microchips in Pretoria, and tea plantations and a fabrication yard for oil and gas platforms in Saldanha Bay.

The facility would be supplemented by a second for maintenance and service at Cape Town harbour.

"Together, the two yards will be supplemented and supplying local companies are expected to create several thousand jobs in the mid-term," said Reinhardt.

MAN Ferrostaal was also replacing its originally planned steel works programme in Coega in the Eastern Cape.

With acknowledgements to Siyabonga Mkhwanazi and The Star.