TIMELINE OF THE ARMS DEAL
JUNE 1997 The cabinet approves the defence review, and two months later so does parliament. Later that year, Thabo Mbeki — then the deputy president — opens the tender process for arms, at an estimated cost of R12-billion. French company Thales wins a R2.6-billion contract to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites. ANC MP Tony Yengeni visits DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in Brazil — one of the bidders in the arms deal. He later gets a new green Mercedes-Benz M-Series 4x4 for half the price via a DaimlerChrysler Aerospace official. BAe, another bidder, donates R4.5-million to the MK Military Veterans Association. Charges against Zuma and Thint — Thales’s SA arm — are controversially withdrawn by prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe, who cites evidence of political interference contained in the so-called spy tapes. Arms deal activist Terry CrawfordBrowne asks the Constitutional Court to get Zuma to launch a commission of inquiry into the arms deal. The cabinet approves the arms deal, which now carries a R30-billion price tag. That day, Jacob Zuma, Schabir Shaik and Thales meet, according to information that emerged later in the Shaik trial. Thales is awarded a R95-million air traffic control maintenance contract that did not go out to tender. Shaik is released on medical parole, two years and four months into his 15-year prison sentence. Thales gets a R100-million electronic ticketing system contract for the Gautrain. State prosecutors reinstate corruption charges against Zuma. Media reports, local and foreign, probe alleged corrupt dealings that British, Swedish and German companies had in their arms deals globally, including in South Africa. PAC MP Patricia de Lille hands the Special Investigating Unit a dossier from “concerned MPs” about extensive corruption in the arms deal. Thabo Mbeki is elected president of South Africa, and Jacob Zuma his deputy. Defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota signs the arms deal, for which finance minister Trevor Manuel signed loans totalling R30-billion. Zuma’s corruption case is scrapped. Zuma appoints a commission of inquiry, headed by Judge Willie Seriti. The Office for Serious Economic Offences — later to be known as the Scorpions — says it is probing the arms deal. Zuma, Shaik and Alain Thetard, of Thales, allegedly meet to discuss paying Zuma R500 000 a year in return for protection against a probe into the company. This emerged during the Shaik trial. Thales allegedly gives ANC treasurer Mendi Msimang a cheque for à1-million to be paid from a secret Dubai account into an “ANCaligned trust” shortly before the company is due to stand trial for corruption with Zuma. Thales clinches a R1.87-billion rail signalling contract in the Western Cape. Parliamentary watchdog Scopa launches a probe into the arms deal, which leads to information that it cost R43.8-billion. Mbeki and ANC ministers blame inflation for the increase. Zuma releases the findings of the Seriti commission, saying it did not find an “iota” of evidence that the arms deal was flawed or corrupt. The investigation is widely slammed as a whitewash. OCTOBER 2001 Yengeni is arrested for perjury, fraud and forgery related to the arms deal. He is later convicted of fraud and serves four months of his four-year sentence.
The Schabir Shaik trial begins. Shaik is found guilty and sentenced to 15 years. Zuma is formally indicted on two charges of corruption and fired as deputy president. OCTOBER 2016 Corruption Watch and the Right2Know Campaign launch a legal challenge in the High Court in Pretoria to have the findings of the Seriti commission set aside.