The minister, the gun dealer and the fancy tiesComment on this story
Pretoria - Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils received two Hermes ties from a representative of ThyssenKrupp, which won arms deal contracts, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
Evidence leader Simmy Lebala SC, sought clarity on the friendship between Kasrils and Christopher Hoenings, a senior employee of the German arms manufacturer.
“There is nothing wrong with receiving gifts as long as you declare them,” Lebala said at the inquiry's public hearings in Pretoria.
“The critics say you received those ties from Mr Hoenings and at that stage is it correct that you were discussing the role that ThyssenKrupp could play in the SDPP (strategic defence procurement package)?”
Kasrils said he did not remember the incident relating to the ties well.
“I had certainly met him, probably before 1998. He projected himself as a charming man who showed interest in my wife's activities in the art world. At that time my wife was assisting South African ceramic artists.”
This was for an exhibition in Germany.
“I would think he would like to call me a friend, or a special friend to impress his company. I declared everything I received over a certain level to Parliament,” Kasrils said.
Lebala said the evidence-leading team was not questioning his integrity.
“Is it true that these gifts were given to you in the context of a meeting set up by a man who was responsible for the acquisitions of ThyssenKrupp?” Lebala asked.
Kasrils responded: “Quite possibly. I can't remember the occasion when he gave me ties, but you would have people like him calling on a visit to a ministry and you would give them an hour for a business discussion.
“On bidding farewell, they would leave you with a book or a souvenir from their country, or a tie or two, and Mr Hoenings could have presented me with ties like that,” Kasrils said.
According to Kasrils' sworn statement to the inquiry it was important for the SA National Defence Force to obtain the weaponry.
“It was vital for these forces to have the capability and capacity, supported by appropriate resources and equipment, to support their assignments at home and on the continent,” he said in the affidavit.
He previously told the inquiry that because he was former defence minister Joe Modise's deputy at the time of the arms deal, he was not privy to all the details of the transaction.
However, he had a good working relationship with Modise, dating back to the liberation struggle.
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.
Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former finance minister Trevor Manuel were at the public hearings on Tuesday. Lekota is scheduled to testify after Kasrils.