Arms deal: DA submits tough questions to Mbeki

The Democratic Alliance (DA) submitted parliamentary questions to President Thabo Mbeki on Monday, asking him to clear the air on his alleged involvement in the arms deal.

DA spokesperson for public accounts Eddie Trent said the questions were meant to — among other things — give Mbeki an opportunity to explain whether any investigative authority had asked him for information surrounding his involvement in the arms deal.

“It is reliably understood that he has been approached in this regard,” Trent said.

Mbeki should also indicate whether he would set up a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations around the arms deal.

“The second questions probes whether, in the face of mounting evidence of wrongdoing associated with the arms deal, as well as the ongoing German and British criminal investigations into alleged corruption, the president will now appoint a judicial commission of inquiry to probe evidence of wrongdoing,” Trent said.

The president should also respond to claims that during his tenure as deputy president of the country, he had met representatives of French arms company Thomson-CSF.

This was in light of revelations earlier this year by Barbara Masekela, former ambassador to France, that she had arranged a meeting between Mbeki and Thomson-CSF in Paris in December 1998.

“The president has consistently and conveniently argued that he cannot recall such a meeting; in light of the revelation by Masekela as well as ongoing claims that he had in fact met with Thomson representatives at least two or three times before, there is no way that he can continue to credibly maintain his silence on this issue,” Trent said.

The DA questions follows a Sunday Times report suggesting that business magnate and senior African National Congress (ANC) leader Tokyo Sexwale made an “impassioned plea” at a meeting of the party’s national executive committee at the weekend for Mbeki “to take the ANC into his confidence”.

The ThyssenKrupp dossier

Meanwhile, confidential documents obtained by the Mail & Guardian reveal that arms giant ThyssenKrupp desperately lobbied the government in an attempt to head off a German probe into the arms deal.

The dossier shows that a lawyer for Sven Moeller, a local Thyssen representative, has written repeatedly to Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla and the department’s Director General, Menzi Simelane, to try to prevent the seizure of documents and the interrogation of witnesses in South Africa.

The German prosecuting authorities are probing claims that the company bribed South African officials and politicians to land a contract for warships for the South African Navy, and have formally asked the South African government for assistance. Moeller is a suspect.

So far, the South Africans have not acceded to the Germans’ request.

The “Mabandla dossier” sheds new light on dealings with the ANC during the arms deal bidding process and raises new questions about Mbeki’s role.

The dossier reveals that that Tony Georgiadis, Thyssen’s South African lobbyist during the bid process, paid R500 000 into ANC coffers, as previously alleged by Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille. The ANC has previously claimed to know nothing about this “donation”.

The dossier also reveals that Georgiadis also paid R500 000 each to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Graça Machel’s development charity in Mozambique and that British police recently raided the London business premises of Georgiadis, who reportedly had Mbeki’s ear at the time of the arms-deal negotiations.

The dossier further alleges that Thyssen paid $22-million to a Georgiadis company, Mallar, following the conclusion of the warship deal in 2000.

German prosecutors allege Mallar was used to channel “at least the major part [of the $22-million] to South African officials and Cabinet ministers”. Georgiadis has denied this allegation.

In a clear warning to Mabandla of the German probe’s dangerous implications, the dossier includes a letter from a rogue South African businessman, Nick Achterberg, alleging Thyssen had paid more than R100-million to Mbeki in a Swiss bank account.

However, Achterberg’s letter makes it clear that the claim is hearsay; Thyssen’s lawyers have dismissed it as “fanciful and ridiculous”.

The Moeller letters to Mabandla claim that the German investigation was initiated as a result of Achterberg’s allegations.

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