Pretoria - Apartheid-era military equipment was outdated and the newly formed SA National Defence Force needed renewal, former deputy defence minister Ronnie Kasrils told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Friday.
“The transformation of the defence force required the introduction of new equipment since the boycott and sanctions against the apartheid regime had left the armed forces with obsolete equipment,” Kasrils said in Pretoria.
Kasrils was deputy defence minister from June 1994 to June 1999. He was intelligence minister from June 1999 to September 2008.
He was led in submitting evidence at the inquiry by the commission's evidence leader Simmy Lebala.
“Is it true that before the decision, even to say the purchases should be effected, there were considerations and realities that the budget was not favourable?” asked Lebala.
Kasrils responded: “Of course the question of the budget was an issue right from the start. The purchasing of equipment, the size of the defence force was going to be fashioned by the defence posture of our country.
“It was also considered that there was no immediate aggressive threat to our territorial integrity. There was also a question of what weapons could we afford.”
He said the navy weaponry was virtually obsolete.
When Lebala began questioning Kasrils on Friday, he took him through his curriculum vitae and his sworn statement.
“Your paragraph two says prior to your appointment you were deputy minister for defence to former minister Joe Modise. Under whose presidency was that?” Lebala asked.
“That was under the presidency of the late president Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela,” Kasrils replied.
In the sworn statement, Kasrils states that at the time of the 1999 arms deal he was only a deputy minister and therefore not a member of Cabinet as the Constitution stipulated.
Lebala asked Kasrils to explain his working relationship with Modise.
“You state that the post of deputy minister did not entail being privy to all matters handled by the minister. You have said you had a good relationship with Minister Modise. Does this mean you were not privy to all matters handled by him?” Lebala asked.
“Were you allowed to express yourself?”
Kasrils said he was.
He said his relationship with Modise dated back to the liberation struggle.
However, ministers were generally busy and did not brief their deputies on all the issues they dealt with.
President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand deal.
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.