Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ANC arms deal bombshell

In an explosive report by an ANC task team, Thabo Mbeki has come under fire for his role in South Africa's controversial arms deal.

But advisers to an ANC national executive committee (NEC) arms deal task team have been far less harsh on ANC President Jacob Zuma, with some suggesting he should be given amnesty for his alleged arms deal corruption offences.

The task team, headed by party Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, was appointed
to probe how the arms deal affected Zuma. It is being assisted by a team of advisers that include Judge Willem Heath and University of Venda vice-chancellor Professor Muxe Nkondo.

Now, in a working document that has not been adopted by the NEC and is understood to have no official status within the ANC, these advisers have questioned Mbeki "seriously compromising secret meetings" with the French arms company accused of bribing Zuma.

They also cast doubt on Mbeki's claims that he could not remember whether he had met the company, Thomson CSF (now Thales/Thint). Thomson was awarded a R1,3-billion stake in the deal a week after Mbeki held an alleged secret meeting with its representatives.

A 17-page NEC working document obtained by The Star, which attacks the state's corruption case against Zuma, states: "Mbeki should disclose in detail the contents of his discussions with the different role-players in (Thomson CSF) as well as details of the role played by Barbara Masekela, South Africa's ambassador to France."

While Mbeki has told parliament he "does not recall" the alleged December 17 1998 with Thomson CSF, Masekela earlier this year publicly confirmed for the first time that she had arranged a meeting between Mbeki and the arms company.

At the time of the meeting, Mbeki, then deputy president, was the chairperson of the interdepartmental committee overseeing the arms deal.

According to the working document, "a denial by Mbeki that such meetings took place at a pretext of memory loss should not be accepted, as there is substantial evidence in the public domain which would refute such denials".

The working documents said a copy of an effusive December 18 1998 letter addressed to Mbeki by Thomson/Thales vice-president Bernard de Bollardiere, thanking Mbeki for granting him and his colleagues an audience, "must be obtained".

It further stated that the implication of the letter was that Mbeki "was in fact promoting the interests of the French company".

Mbeki's spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, on Thursday told The Star he "did not know anything" about the working document.

It also includes a report by Nkondo entitled "The Jacob Zuma Case: A Call for Pragmatism", in which the professor outlines how a "political solution" to the Zuma case - specifically amnesty for his alleged corruption - could be realised.

Nkondo argued that:

# "He would be required to admit guilt and disclose all the facts."

# "Equally imperative, everybody else implicated in the case would have to admit guilt and disclose all the facts. Because this is a very delicate and vulnerable undertaking, a legitimate but sympathetic agency has to be identified to mediate the process."

# "Evidence has to be produced to prove that his alleged crime is part of crimes committed on all sides during the period of sedition."

# "A public agency has to be identified that would establish or declare amnesty."

He added that the ANC should seek support for Zuma's amnesty from, among others, a "faith-based organisation", "sympathetic political organisations and governments who have gone through similar crises", friends of the ANC and youth organisations.

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