Tuesday, February 28, 2006

DA renews call for arms-deal inquiry

Cape Town, South Africa
27 February 2006 03:16
The Democratic Alliance has renewed its call on President Thabo Mbeki to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into certain aspects of the arms deal.

DA public accounts spokesperson Eddie Trent said on Monday he has again written to Mbeki "in an attempt to jog his memory" of an alleged meeting he had with French arms company Thomson-CSF senior executives in Paris in 1998 when he was deputy president.

Trent said he wrote the letter in view of Mbeki's statement in an interview with the Sunday Independent newspaper that he "honestly cannot recall" whether he met the senior executives during a highly sensitive stage of the arms-procurement process.

"I have also sent him the contents of two encrypted faxes which appear to confirm that such a meeting did in fact take place, in a complete violation of normally accepted tender procedures."

In his letter to Mbeki, Trent said the first of these faxes was from Pierre Moynot to M Denis and B de Bollardiere, all Thomson-CSF employees.

In this fax, dated November 28 1997, reference was made to the "person responsible for the shortlist".

The fax also referred to the fact that this person "repeated that he had obtained the assurance from the deputy president that we would be awarded the combat system and sensors".

The second fax was from B de Bollardiere (senior vice-president of Thomson-CSF) to the then South African ambassador to France, Barbara Masekela.

In this fax, De Bollardiere thanked Masekela for arranging a meeting between the "deputy president of your government, Mr Thabo Mbeki, with Messrs Jean-Paul Perrier, Michel Denis, and myself".

Trent asked Mbeki to clarify whether any assurance was given to Thomson-CSF that it would be awarded the corvette combat suite contract, and whether a meeting of the nature referred to in the second fax did in fact take place.

"If indeed the contents of these documents are either false or misleading, it would appear to be in the national interest that they should be publicly disputed," he wrote.

"Despite the government's protestations to the contrary, there are still a number of outstanding questions relating to the arms deal.

"I would therefore like to repeat my call for you to establish a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate firstly the outstanding issues surrounding executive interference in the drafting of the auditor general's arms deal report, and secondly the information contained in the faxes referred to above," Trent wrote. -- Sapa

Source: Mail & Guardian