Former finance minister Trevor Manuel will continue on Thursday with his testimony before the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the arms deal.
Manuel was finance minister at the time of the 1999 deal.
He began testifying on Wednesday immediately after former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota.
During Wednesday's proceedings, Manuel told the commission that a mandate by former president Nelson Mandela to his Cabinet to properly equip the defence force resulted in the 1999 arms deal.
Manuel quoted two State of the Nation addresses delivered by the late former president.
He said that in November 1998, Cabinet decided to enter into negotiations with preferred bidders in the strategic defence procurement package (SDPP), known as the arms deal.
“That decision committed government to investing approximately R29.9 billion in the SDPP. The intention was that the special defence account of the defence department would carry the cost of the SDPP,” Manuel said.
He said the National Treasury, then under his guidance, had a constitutional obligation to ensure that the funding intended for the SDPP was affordable and budgeted for.
Cancelling loans secured for financing the 1999 arms deal would have hurt the South African economy, he said.
Other high-profile individuals who testified at the commission so far include former trade and industry minister Alec Erwin and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils. Kasrils was deputy minister of defence at the time of the arms purchase.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion-rand deal.
The government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy. - Sapa