17 July 2014

South Africa: Tears and Missed Opportunities As Mbeki Coasts Through Arms Commission

Photo: BAE Systems
A Hawk in flight. One of the jets purchased by South Africa in the arms deal (file photo).


Former President Thabo Mbeki's appearance at the Seriti Commission into arms deal was supposed to shed a light on the top official's role in the scandal. It didn't. Instead, it shored Mbeki's defences. Then it got sad and weird.

Mbeki's slight frame leans forward on the table. Both hands are on the desk. His eyes focus on the speaker. Grey-haired and calm, he looks and speaks like a renowned statesman.

Mbeki calmly tells the commission that the R30 billion arms procurement deal was a culmination of a process that included assessing what the armed forces needed and looking at options and affordability. It was all above board and in accordance with the Constitution, which mandates the state to provide for defence.

The Arms Deal Commission, under the leadership of Judge Willie Seriti, was established to investigate whether that claim is true. There's a lot to suggest it's not. As deputy president when the procurement process began, president when the deal was signed, and president when allegations of corruption and maladministration emerged, the proverbial buck stops with Mbeki.

Mbeki props his head on his hand. "There are some matters that have been in the public domain for a...

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