/ 13 February 2008

Presidency to consult Mbeki on report on arms deal

The Presidency said on Wednesday that it would have to consult President Thabo Mbeki before commenting on a report quoting former ambassador to France Barbara Masekela.

In the report, Masekela is quoted as saying she had arranged a meeting between Mbeki and an arms company that is the co-accused in African National Congress president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial.

”I will have to talk to the president about that,” said Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga.

The Sunday Times reported Masekela as saying she had arranged a meeting between Mbeki — who was then deputy president and overseeing the arms-procurement process — and French arms company Thompson CSF, now called Thales, that was bidding for a South African contract.

Mbeki has said that he does not recall the meeting, reportedly on December 17 1998, which the Democratic Alliance once described as a breach of the rules of the tendering process.

The company also offered Masekela a directorship but she turned it down because she was uncomfortable with it.

The Star reported National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tlali Tlali as saying it ”did interact with her [Masekela] … there was no formal interview with her”.

However, the report continued, documents filed by the Scorpions in Zuma’s case have named Masekela as having received money from Jurgen Kogl, a businessman they suspect of laundering an alleged R500 000 bribe paid to Zuma by Thint, the South African subsidiary of Thales. — Sapa