Arms deal haunts mbeki

Sowetan Reporter

Sowetan Reporter

The spectre of the government's controversial multibillion-rand arms deal has once again come to haunt President Thabo Mbeki.

The Sunday Times reported that former South African ambassador to France Barbara Masekela said Mbeki had met French arms company Thompson CSF (now Thales/Thint).

The meeting took place on December 17 1998. At the time Mbeki was ANC deputy president and chairman of the interdepartmental committee overseeing the arms deal. Thomson was subsequently awarded a R13 billion share in the arms deal.

The company is also accused of having offered former deputy president Jacob Zuma a R500000 bribe.

The Sunday Times report puts Mbeki on a wrong footing with the arms deal.

Mbeki has previously claimed to have no recollection of such a meeting.

The Democratic Alliance has previously described the meeting as a breach of the rules of the tendering process.

Masekela described the meeting as a "courtesy call".

She was, however, subsequently interviewed by the NPA about the meeting.

The NPA has confirmed that the Scorpions had "interacted with Masekela".

During an SABC interview last year Mbeki reiterated the government's position that there was no corruption in the arms deal tendering process.

"That conclusion will stand whatever investigation the British are doing," he told interviewer Tim Modise.

In Parliament yesterday, the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) shot down a request by the DA to open the arms deal for discussion.

In his resolution, DA MP Eddie Trent said while he did not intend to produce new evidence or conclusive proof of wrongdoing, Scopa's complete responsibility for investigating the arms deal "has yet to be fulfilled".

Scopa chairman Themba Godi has asked the DA to motivate why the arms deal should be further probed by Scopa, because a joint investigating team set up by Mbeki had found no evidence of improper conduct by government.