Mbeki considers legal action against Sunday Times

President Thabo Mbeki is consulting his lawyers on whether to take action against the Sunday Times for its “so-called” report of his corrupt involvement in the arms deal, the Presidency said on Wednesday.

Despite a pre-emptive strike by Mbeki’s staff to discredit it, the Sunday Times last weekend published explosive allegations that Mbeki was paid R30-million by a German shipbuilding company to guarantee it would receive a submarine contract in South Africa’s multibillion-rand arms deal.

“The Presidency categorically rejects all allegations made in the so-called report. The Presidency denies categorically that Mbeki facilitated any money,” Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad told a media briefing in Pretoria.

“Obviously in the Presidency we have decided to take legal advice, and once the legal advice is given the president will take the necessary steps.”

Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin echoed these sentiments and slammed the media for its “spurious” and “really quite absurd” allegations regarding the arms deal.

“These are rehashed allegations time and time again. There is this assertion that it must be inherently the case that if we are dealing in arms, there must be kickbacks.”

Erwin further urged the media to consult basic documents and re-read the Auditor General’s report following the investigation into the arms deal.

“Very basic homework is not being done in the media. The standards of journalism in this regard are exceptionally low,” he said.

Referring to calls that a judicial commission of inquiry be put in place, Erwin said there is no need to further investigate the arms deal as it was already investigated by the Auditor General. “As government, we can say there is no basis for a judicial inquiry,” he said.

Pahad further stated: “Nobody’s going to find any corruption.”

However, should anyone have any credible evidence, then they should take it to the country’s law-enforcement agencies.

Before ending the briefing, Pahad once again reiterated that at no point in the contractual process, formally or informally, had there ever been an agreement that allowed for money to change hands in the awarding of contracts. Nor had any conditional support for the ANC been offered up as a bribe.

However, the government cannot be held accountable for any other alleged corrupt activities in the arms industry since the awarding of contracts. To this, Pahad said he could give “no guarantees”.

According to the Sunday Times, a secret report compiled last year by a British specialist risk company revealed the deal. Mbeki allegedly gave R2-million of the money to Jacob Zuma and the rest to the African National Congress.

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