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Pretoria - Costs were always a consideration during the arms procurement process, former president Thabo Mbeki told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
“At no point did the inter-ministerial committee consider anything without taking into consideration the issue of cost, because you need to pay for everything,” he said at the council chambers at the Sammy Marks building in Pretoria.
He was responding to a question by Paul Hoffman, who was cross-examining Mbeki on behalf of anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne, on whether he knew that then defence minister Joe Modise instructed his department's committee to disregard costs as consideration.
“Joe Modise decided that he wanted the Hawks and Griffins so badly that cost had to be forgotten,” Hoffman said.
Mbeki insisted he knew nothing about the alleged instruction by Modise.
“We did not sit in departmental meetings. We sat as the inter-ministerial committee and this matter did not come up.”
Hoffman asked Mbeki if he would agree that if Modise had done this it would have been “deeply, darkly, unconstitutional”.
Commission chair judge Willie Seriti interjected and told Mbeki he did not have to answer the question.
Hoffman insisted Mbeki answer, saying it was crucial in establishing if the commission was a farce.
Hoffman was asked to withdraw his statement about the farce, which he refused to do. His voice starting shaking as he tried to justify his question.
Hoffman is expected to continue his cross-examination after the lunch break.
The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the country's multi-billion-rand arms procurement deal in 1999.
Mbeki was president of the country at the time and Zuma his deputy.
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former public enterprises minister Alec Erwin attended the commission on Thursday. The three, who were part of Mbeki's Cabinet, sat behind the former president at the commission.