Mbeki still refuses arms deal probe

Ido Lekota

President Thabo Mbeki will not institute an investigation into allegations of corruption relating to the government's multibillion-rand arms deal.

Presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said yesterday that both Mbeki and the government's position remained that there had been no irregularities in the arms acquisition process.

This view was also expressed by Mbeki during an SABC interview when he said that he knew of no irregularities in the arms deal.

Ratshitanga's comment follows new allegations made in the latest edition of the German magazine, Der Spiegel, that the former chief of acquisitions for the multibillion-rand arms deal, Chippy Shaik, received a bribe of about R21,6million from German arms manufacturer ThyssenKrupp.

The magazine article details how the bribe was allegedly paid to Shaik via a non-existent "mailbox company" called Merian.

ThyssenKrupp supplied Corvettes to South Africa as part of the arms deal.

The DA yesterday asked the Public Protector to investigate the allegations.

"The arms deal ghost continues to haunt the South African government," DA spokesman Eddie Trent said yesterday.

The DA has repeatedly stated that the only solution was for Mbeki to establish a judicial commission of inquiry, separate from the executive.

Trent said failure to do so meant the party was forced to use other institutions designed to protect the public from abuse by state officials, to get to the bottom of the arms deal.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said yesterday that a judicial commission would be a futile exercise.

She said the solution lay in the government launching criminal investigations against the individuals who illegally benefitted from the arms deal and to prosecute them - as had been the case with former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and Durban businessman Schabir Shaik.

De Lille confirmed during a media briefing on Sunday that the German prosecuting authority had decided to ask its South African counterpart for legal assistance in its investigation into the South African arms deal.

Ratshitanga said yesterday that such a request would be looked into and "a political decision would be taken as to how to deal with it".

The UK's Serious Fraud Office is also investigating the payment by British Aerospace of R1billion in commissions to secure contracts in the arms deal.