Mbeki denies arms deal ‘bribes’

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Former president Thabo Mbeki is testifying at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria. Photo: Werner Beukes

Pretoria - There was no evidence that anyone received a bribe during the arms procurement deal, former president Thabo Mbeki told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.

“There is absolutely no evidence of bribery in terms of people involved in the processing of the acquisition,” he told the commission sitting in Pretoria.

“We've been waiting for concrete facts.”

He was responding to a question by lawyer Paul Hoffman, for anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne, who was cross-examining him on his involvement in the procurement of arms when he was president.

Hoffman asked Mbeki if he was aware that British company BAE admitted that it had paid commissions, which he said were bribes, to South African officials.

Mbeki said he was not.

Hoffman asked if Mbeki was aware that if a deal fell through, the person who was paid the bribe would not have to pay it back according to law.

Mbeki said he was not a lawyer and did not know the law.

Hoffman said it seemed Mbeki had not been briefed properly by his legal team as there were documents identifying people who had received bribes, how much and into which accounts the money was paid.

Mbeki's lawyer Marumo Moerane objected to Hoffman's statement.

The commission, chaired by judge Willie Seriti, 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.

Hoffman's cross-examination on Thursday was based on the chronological order of the arms procurement deal.

The lawyer sat with a copy of the book on the arms deal, authored by Paul Holden.

He asked Mbeki questions based on information in the book, to which the former president answered many a time that he did not remember.

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