Why Mbeki with­drew from the arms com­mis­sion

Sunday World - - Front Page -

NKU­L­ULEKO NCANA FOR­MER pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki has re­fused to be rep­re­sented by a state at­tor­ney at the Ser­iti Com­mis­sion of In­quiry.

Mbeki has in­sisted on be­ing funded by the state to ap­point his own le­gal team that would rep­re­sent him when he ap­pears as a wit­ness.

Sun­day World un­der­stands that Mbeki’s le­gal team be­lieves the ev­i­dence lead­ers ap­pointed to the com­mis­sion were disin­gen­u­ous dur­ing their meet­ings with him. It is said that: Com­mis­sion ev­i­dence lead­ers al­leged that they strug­gled to find Mbeki to in­ter­view him even though his where­abouts was known to them.

At one of the meet­ings with Mbeki, the ev­i­dence lead­ers re­lied on the contents of An­drew Fe­in­stein ’ s books into the arms deal to quiz him.

An agree­ment with the ev­i­dence lead­ers to send writ­ten ques­tions to Mbeki for his re­sponses ahead of his ap­pear­ance in Jan­uary next year was re­neged on.

Arms deal com­mis­sion spokesman Wil­liam Baloyi would not be drawn into pro­vid­ing de­tails of the meet­ings be­tween ev­i­dence lead­ers and Mbeki.

“Un­for­tu­nately we can­not dis­close our in­ter­ac­tion with wit­nesses as this forms part of our in­ter­nal op­er­a­tions,” Baloyi said.

Sun­day World un­der­stands that Mbeki be­lieves his re­quest to the govern­ment was above board and nec­es­sary in the event that there was an ad­verse find­ing by the com­mis­sion that could lead to pos­si­ble court ac­tion.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in­sti­tuted the com­mis­sion of in­quiry – headed by Judge Wil­lie Ser­iti – into al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in the multi­bil­lion-rand arms deal.

Zuma’s de­ci­sion came a decade af­ter de­tails of cor­rupt deal­ings dur­ing the R70-bil­lion arms pro­cure­ment process emerged.

Max Bo­qwana, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Mbeki and other for­mer cabi­net min­is­ters, with­drew from the com­mis­sion on Tues­day af­ter it emerged that the govern­ment would not foot his le­gal fees. But Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional De­vel­op­ment Jeff Radebe re­tal­i­ated a few days later, say­ing it was un­true that the state had re­fused to pro­vide le­gal as­sis­tance to Mbeki.

“The withdrawal of the firm Bo­qwana Burns has cre­ated an im­pres­sion that the govern­ment has re­fused to fund the for­mer pres­i­dent’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the com­mis­sion. This is in­deed not true. The for­mer pres­i­dent is be­ing of­fered le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion which will be pro­vided through the state at­tor­ney, duly sup­ported by ex­pert re­sources, as deemed nec­es­sary by the state at­tor­ney,” Radebe said.

But in­sid­ers close to the process told Sun­day World that Mbeki made a for­mal re­quest for le­gal as­sis­tance on July 31 and did not re­ceive a re­sponse un­til the com­mis­sion started.

Mbeki was sub­poe­naed by the com­mis­sion as a wit­ness with for­mer min­is­ters Ron­nie Kas­rils, Mo­siuoa Lekota, Alec Er­win and Trevor Manuel.

“His at­tor­ney was told that the govern­ment would pro­vide state at­tor­neys to as­sist the for­mer pres­i­dent, but this was de­clined,” one in­sider said.

An­other said Mbeki wanted to em­ploy the ser­vices of at least two se­nior coun­sel and at­tor­neys.

“The ar­gu­ment that was made is that the at­tor­neys ap­pointed by Mr Mbeki would sit through the pro­ceed­ings from start to fin­ish so that they could have their fin­ger on the pulse as far as the tes­ti­mony that is given by other wit­nesses [is con­cerned],” said the in­sider.

Mbeki is also said to be an­gry at the con­duct of the com­mis­sion’s ev­i­dence lead­ers be­fore it started last week.

Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Rat­shi­tanga de­clined to comment.

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