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ARMS DEAL: Forward info that can assist the Seriti Commission, says Presidency

By Tai Chishakwe - Sep 29, 2014
ARMS DEAL: Forward info that can assist the Seriti Commission, says Presidency

The Presidency on Sunday advised anyone who has information that can assist the Seriti Commission of Inquiry to forward the information to the commission so that it can be interrogated.

This comes after the Sunday Times on Sunday published an article linking President Jacob Zuma to alleged wrongdoing in the now-infamous "arms deal".

In an article published yeastrday titled; EXPOSED:How arms dealer Thales bankrolled Zuma, the Sunday Times said it had obtained exclusive documents which showed how Thales fixer, Ajay Sooklal, allegedly arranged flights, fancy clothes, legal fees and lavish hotel stays in Europe for Zuma when he faced corruption charges linked to the arms deal.

Thales's South African subsidiary Thint won a R2.6-billion contract in 1997 to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites.

The documents are transcripts, totalling 1358 pages, of testimony given under oath before retired Judge Phillip Levinsohn at confidential arbitration hearings held earlier this year in a fee dispute between Sooklal and Thales.

According to the Times, the transcripts expose for the first time that:

  • Zuma used the code words "Eiffel Tower" to accept a R500000-a-year bribe from Thales in return for political protection in the arms deal probe and to secure future business;
  • Thales gave former ANC treasurer Mendi Msimang a cheque for €1-million (about R14-million at today's rates) in April 2006 to be paid from a secret Dubai account into an "ANC-aligned trust" shortly before the company was due to stand trial for corruption with Zuma;
  • Thales was asked to bankroll the ANC conference at Polokwane in 2007, where Zuma was elected party president, but did not do so;
  • Thales furiously lobbied ANC officials including former president Thabo Mbeki, former justice minister Penuell Maduna, former secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe and Msimang to be let off the hook, even enlisting the help of French president Jacques Chirac; and
  • Thales bankrolled Zuma and Sooklal to fly around the world and meet witnesses who could help the ANC president in his forthcoming corruption trial, even when they were unrelated to Thales.

As deputy president and head of government business at the time, Zuma was also expected to promote the French arms and electronic company's future business ventures in South Africa in return for his alleged bribe.

The arms company has since clinched several lucrative state contracts. These include a R1.87-billion rail signalling contract in the Western Cape in 2013, a R100-million electronic ticketing system for the Gautrain in 2007 and a R95-million air traffic control maintenance contract in 2009 that did not go out to tender.

The Presidency said there was nothing new in the allegations. 

“However, the Presidency wishes to once again advise all those possessing any information that they believe can assist the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages to forward that information to the Commission so that it can be interrogated,” it said in a statement. 

The commission resumes on October 6 with testimony from arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne.

Meanwhile, ANC Spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, accused the Sunday Times of "continued attempt to fan flames of suspicion amongst the general public of the ANC and its leadership, particularly President Zuma" in a statement.

"The paper today leads with a story that is more than 10 years old peddling it as news and positioning it as some explosive expose," he said.

"In the more than a decade since allegations and reports first surfaced of possible wrongdoing in the so-called Arms Deal, various law enforcement agencies have conducted investigations, several individuals who were implicated were charged. With an intention to uncover and lay to rest all matters related to the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages, President Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry chaired by Judge Seriti and tasked probing the allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity."

Kodwa argued that it would have been proper therefore that the Sunday Times respect due processes and legitimate platforms that have been created to probe the probity of the Arms Deal.

"Where any new information is uncovered, it is using the correct channels to report such matters that will get results not sensationalism," he said.

"For its part, the African National Congress once again reiterates that the organisation has no record of receipt of any donation from a company called Thales. We therefore dismiss this rumour mongering and lies peddling by the Sunday Times with the contempt that they deserve."

Photo caption: DID HE BENEFIT FROM THE 'ARMS DEAL'... President Jacob Zuma.