Arms deal negotiator willing to talk

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Willie Seriti1 Independent Newspapers Judge Willie Seriti is seen during the Arms Procurement Commission in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Chief government negotiator in the arms deal Jayendra Naidoo declared his willingness on Monday to answer all questions before the Seriti Commission of Inquiry.

Naidoo was led by the commission evidence leader Matshego Ramagaga as he went through his sworn statement in Pretoria.

“You have indicated that you will not restrict yourself to the evidence that you presented to the JIT (joint investigation task team). You are willing to comply when you are required?” Ramagaga asked.

Naidoo responded: “I will answer all the questions.”

Ramagaga said Naidoo's statement focused on the chronology of events, background information, the legal framework and finance contracts, costs of the package, and an affordability report.

Naidoo's statement indicated he has been asked to provide evidence as the chief negotiator representing the presidency in 1999 in the strategic defence procurement packages deal.

“I was appointed as the chief negotiator on the defence packages by the then deputy president Thabo Mbeki on December 9, 1998. However, I commenced my duties earlier on November 20, 1998,” Naidoo said in his statement.

He reported directly Mbeki, who subsequently became president. He reported to a committee of ministers involving then defence minister Joe Modise, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former trade minister Alec Erwin and former public enterprises minister Stella Sigcau.

“I met deputy president Mbeki prior to each meeting of the ministers' committee except the meeting in April 1999. I briefed him on progress, the critical issues of consideration, the various dynamics of each issue,” said Naidoo.

“I met separately with each of the ministers who were members of the committee prior to the meeting, to brief them on progress and to understand their perspective on the issues.”

He reflected on a negotiating team, comprising members of the departments of defence, finance, and trade and industry, and Armscor.

Naidoo chaired that team, representing Mbeki.

He said in April 1999, after considering a report of the negotiating team, the ministers' committee established a separate team to investigate the affordability of the defence package.

“The affordability team comprised four members namely myself, Mr Ronald White of the DOF (finance department), Dr Paul Jordan of the DTI (trade and industry department), Mr Chippy Shaik of the DOD (defence department),” said Naidoo.

“The AT (affordability team) was supported by Dr Stephen Gelb, a prominent economist who was contracted by the chief negotiator and Mr Clive van Horen, who was contracted by the department of defence.”

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission, led by judge Willie Seriti, 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.

Sapa



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