Mzansi Afrika

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

It just keeps coming back

The arms deal just refuses go away. Yesterday Democratic Alliance MP Eddie Trent, was kicked out of the National Assembly for asking questions that frankly, could have potentially devastating consequences, the likes of which we have not yet seen, and probably don’t want to see.

According to a DA media statement from Trent:

“In a follow up to the member's statement that I made in the National Assembly yesterday (copied below) I have submitted parliamentary questions to President Mbeki. These questions directly relate to an apparent secret meeting that President Mbeki held with Thomsons executives in Paris in 1998, as well as to the apparent assurance that he conveyed via the then Chief of Acquisitions Chippy Shaik, that Thomsons would be guaranteed the combat system contract for the Navy.

This is a matter of profound importance as President Mbeki was the Chair of the Ministerial Committee (MINCOM) responsible for the arms deal and he must therefore take ultimate responsibility for any irregularities or corruption associated with the arms deal. Furthermore, if the President did indeed convey an assurance to Thomsons before the final decision was made to award the contracts, then this casts a dark cloud over the integrity of the entire arms procurement process. If in fact the President met Thomson's executives in secret, then this would constitute a gross deviation from all accepted tender procedures. Instead of the Chair of MINCOM conducting such a meeting it should rather have been ARMSCOR representatives meeting with bidders in an open and transparent fashion and with minutes officially recorded.”

Trent goes on to say that he has posed the following questions for Mbeki to answer:

“1) Whether he had met with representatives of Thomsons in Paris or anywhere else on or about the 17th of December 1998; if so, (a) where, (b) on what date and (c) what was discussed;
(2) Whether he had given any assurance to Thomsons that it would be awarded the contract for the combat suite and sensors to be fitted to the Corvettes as part of the arms acquisition; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, on what basis did he do so;
(3) Whether he had met with certain members of the SA Nay to discuss the management of the acquisition process of the Corvettes; if so, what, (a) views did he express at such meeting or meetings and (b) action was agreed to as a result;
(4) Whether these members of the SA Navy gave any undertaking to ensure the contract was awarded to the Thomson's; if not, what undertaking did they give; if so, on what basis was this undertaking given?”

I certainly hope that the DA’s allegations or inferences are completely and utterly unfounded. The possibility that Mbeki himself may have unduly influenced the outcome of the arms deal in any way that may have deviated from the prescribed protocol is too horrible to contemplate. I would
love to know where the DA is getting this information from. I would also like to state that I am in NO way alleging that Mbeki was involved in any untoward behaviour, so far the only information I have seen is the statement by the DA.

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