Mbeki quizzed on Shaik envoy job

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

Pretoria - Former president Thabo Mbeki did not know why Mo Shaik was sent to Hamburg, Germany to be the consul-general for three months in 1998, he told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria on Thursday.

“I wouldn't know... all matters of consul-general were decided by the (foreign affairs) department,” Mbeki said.

He was being cross-examined at the inquiry about the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal which took place under his presidency.

The former president was being questioned by Paul Hoffman, for anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne.

Hoffman wanted to know why Shaik was sent to the German city, where companies involved in the arms deal were based, for only three months.

Mbeki could not answer, saying it was not a presidency matter.

Mbeki's lawyer Marumo Moerane and commission chairman judge Willie Seriti interjected during Hoffman's cross-examination, questioning the relevance of his questions.

Mo Shaik is the brother of Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of corruption in 2005 related to facilitating a bribe during the arms deal.

Mo Shaik was also former head of the South African Secret Service.

Hoffman wanted to know if Mbeki knew whether any of the submarines and jets obtained by government during the arms procurement were used.

“We never checked on operations,” Mbeki said.

Hoffman asked if, at the time of procurement, there was a military threat to South Africa.

Mbeki said if there was it would be in the white paper on defence from the time, or in the defence review.

While reading his four-page statement earlier, Mbeki, dressed in a dark grey suit, kept clearing his throat.

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. At the time Mbeki was president 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 hearing.

Sapa



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