For the past 16 years, there have been no facts supporting allegations of mismanagement in the arms deal, former president Thabo Mbeki told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
“There is this huge volume of work which has been done,” he said referring to investigations conducted by the state.
“I kept saying if anybody’s got evidence, despite all these investigations taking place… where is this evidence? To this day there have been allegations plenty but for 16 years no one has produced fact.”
Mbeki said he was aware of all the allegations of bribery and corruption surrounding the deal but neither Cabinet nor the inter-ministerial task team took decisions in a corrupt manner.
“Please produce something which would justify this commission,” he said.
Mbeki was being cross-examined by Paul Hoffman for anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne.
The commission, chaired by judge Willie Seriti, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the country’s multi-billion-rand arms procurement deal in 1999.
Mbeki was president of the country at the time and Zuma his deputy.
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former public enterprise minister Alec Erwin attended the commission on Thursday. The three, who were part of Mbeki’s Cabinet, sat behind the former president at the commission. Mbeki’s wife Zanele was also present.
Most of Hoffman’s cross-examination on Thursday was based on the chronological order of the arms procurement deal. The lawyer sat with a copy of a book on the arms deal, “Devil in the Detail”, authored by Paul Holden.
He asked Mbeki questions based on information in the book, to which the former president answered many a time that he did not remember. Hoffman and Mbeki also came to loggerheads during the afternoon session. The former president earlier got irritated with Hoffman for making what he called offensive comments. Later he again accused Hoffman of being condescending.
This prompted Hoffman to break down in front of the commission and explain that he was on heavy medication because his daughter had committed suicide last month.
“So forgive me for irritating you and talking down to you,” he said addressing Mbeki.
“I have respect for you and what you did to get us (the country) here,” he said while sobbing.
Mbeki said he accepted Hoffman’s apology and offered any support he could to the lawyer at this difficult time. Once the commission had adjourned for the day Mbeki approached Hoffman, shook his hand and offered his condolences.
Lawyers for Human Rights will cross-examine Mbeki on Friday. SAPA