/ 24 June 2014

Arms deal to announce date of Mbeki’s testimony

Thabo Mbeki's testimony in the arms deal commission was postponed after his mother's death.
Thabo Mbeki's testimony in the arms deal commission was postponed after his mother's death.

The arms procurement commission, investigating the 1999, R70-billion arms deal, will announce a date for former president Thabo Mbeki’s testimony soon.

Mbeki is the last witness to testify in phase one of the commission’s public hearings. He was due to testify on June 12 and 13 but his testimony was postponed following the death of his mother, Epainette Mbeki, on June 7.

The commission adjourned after the evidence of former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who testified on June 12.

Phase one of the hearings deals mainly with the rationale for the arms deal purchases, the affordability and the utilisation of the arms purchased.

On Monday, commission spokesperson William Baloyi said the commission was on the verge of announcing a date for Mbeki’s testimony.

Mbeki was president when the arms deal contracts were signed in 1999, and was deputy president when the contracts were negotiated. After his evidence, the commission is expected to take a short adjournment to prepare its interim report, before started phase two of the hearings.

He added that the witness list for phase two witnesses would also be released shortly. Phase two deals with the allegations of fraud and corruption surrounding the arms deal.

De Lille dossier
Baloyi said the commission did not want witnesses to read about their imminent testimony before being served with a subpoena, so the commission was anxious to ensure that all subpoenas had been issued before releasing the full list.

The Mail & Guardian understands that former defence minister Joe Modise’s former adviser, Fana Hlongwane, as well as erstwhile acquisitions chief, Chippy Shaik, are due to testify in phase two. In addition, the commission planned to ask several whistleblowers to testify in phase two. This included Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille, who first exposed the arms deal during her time as a representative of the Pan Africanist Congress in Parliament, in September 1999.

Her presentation to Parliament, known as the De Lille dossier, is before the commission as evidence.

Arms deal critics and authors, Andrew Feinstein, Paul Holden, Hennie Van Vuuren, as well as Terry Crawford-Browne and Richard Young, are also among the phase two witnesses.