Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota gave evidence at the arms deal commission on Wednesday morning. He had been defence minister for six months in 1999 when the R70-billion arms deal was signed.
On Wednesday, advocate Anna-Marie De Vos for Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) asked Lekota if he knew whether the ANC had benefited from the deal financially. “I would reject such an assertion,” Lekota said, shortly before he was excused from the commission.
In 2007, using parliamentary privilege, Patricia De Lille alleged that in 1999 the ANC received R500 000 from a winning arms deal bidder. The party denied it, as did the arms company, and at the time Lekota challenged De Lille to provide proof.
De Lille alleged the money was transferred via a Swiss bank account, lending some credence to rumours that the arms deal had assisted the ANC in funding its 1999 election campaign. De Lille will testify at the arms deal commission in phase two of its public hearings, possibly in July or August.
Lekota told the commission that charges against President Jacob Zuma, that were dropped but related to the arms deal, should be tested in court. Corruption charges against Zuma were controversially dropped by then-prosecutions boss, Mokotedi Mpshe, in April 2009.
As the Mail & Guardian reported in 2013, Mpshe appeared to have done so against the advice of his prosecutions team, who believed there was sufficient evidence to continue with Zuma’s prosecution.
Zuma’s corruption charges
This also emerged during De Vos’s cross-examination, when she reminded Lekota about a University of South Africa speech, where he said Zuma should answer for his corruption charges in court. In February 2009, Lekota told the Centre for Civil Society in Durban the same thing.
Lekota said Zuma’s charges related to the “secondary” contracts – subcontracts which stemmed from the arms deal. His former financial advisor Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption in 2005 for soliciting a payment for Zuma from French arms company, Thomson-CSF.
Lekota was also asked why, as minister of defence, he took no action against Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman, who resigned from the navy and was soon employed by Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, one of the winning bidders in the arms deal. This revolving-door arrangement was not allowed in terms of the arms deal contracts to prevent corruption.
Lekota said he was not “hands on” on the issue, as this was a matter “dealt with by the department” and not the ministry. He also said that an answer he gave in Parliament on the matter at the time was “given” to him. He said he did not write the answer to Parliament himself.
Lekota’s appearance at the commission was preceded by former deputy defence minister Ronnie Kasrils, who praised the arms deal. Kasrils said he believed the actions of Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet in initiating the arms deal (although it would ultimately be signed by Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet) were “extremely significant”.
“I’m proud of my role,” Kasrils said.