Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2003-09-03 Reporter: Sapa

Probe Mbeki's Role In Arms Deal - De Lille



Cape Times

Date 2003-09-03



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"Curious" events in the bidding for South Africa's arms deal that might have involved President Thabo Mbeki still need to be probed, politician Patricia de Lille said on Wednesday.

This related to an about-turn in the shortlisting of bidders for four navy corvettes and three submarines, she told the National Press Club in Pretoria.

Germany's bid to supply these vessels inexplicably re-appeared on the list after Mbeki visited that country.

"I am still waiting on an explanation about this curious chain of events," said De Lille, leader of the Independent Democratic Party she founded recently.

De Lille raised the first claims of corruption in the multi-billion rands arms deal.

At the time an MP for the Pan Africanist Congress, she told parliament in 1999 she had information of African National Congress politicians receiving kickbacks from foreign arms consortiums.

She passed this information, dubbed the De Lille dossier, on to the now-defunct Heath special investigating unit.

De Lille said on Wednesday at least half of the contents of the original dossier had been confirmed.

"Now that we have found prima facie evidence (in the dossier), it is about time to revisit the document," she said.

"There is one person named in the original document who is still not being investigated - President Thabo Mbeki."

The dossier showed the German bid of the Thyssen company for the corvettes and of Ferrestaal for the submarines was not originally shortlisted in 1995.

At the time, suppliers from Spain and Britain were listed to furnish the corvettes and submarines respectively.

De Lille said the re-entrance of the German bid on the shortlist followed a visit by Mbeki to Germany when he was still deputy president.

"Suddenly the Spaniards and the British bids were ousted and the German one included. Why the change to the German bid, and so soon after the visit of the deputy president?" she asked.

"Moving from a non-preferred bidder to the winner of the bid, seems very suspicious."

De Lille said the dossier reported a former German ambassador as saying - during a private visit to South Africa in 1966 - that Germany was determined to secure the tender at all costs.

"This obviously included bribery. In fact, three-percent commission on top of the package had been set aside by Germany."

De Lille said it had since been determined that the Spanish and British bidders complied with all requirements for building the vessels South Africa needed.

"The big question is why were they left out, even when they cheaper than Germany?"

De Lille also asserted that Mbeki misled the public when he said in January 2001 there was no prima facie evidence to warrant a investigation by the Heath unit into the arms deal.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Cape Times.