Arms deal: Kasrils denies responsibility

Ronnie Kasrils dismissed evidence that he made decisions which had cost implications for govt.

Ronnie Kasrils. Picture:Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - Former deputy defence minister Ronnie Kasrils has dismissed evidence that he was responsible for decisions which had cost implications for the government with regards to the controversial arms deal.

Kasrils began testifying at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry today which is investigating allegations of fraud, corruption and irregularities in the multi-billion rand arms deal.

He is shedding light on his role in the decisions to acquire certain military equipment, in particular the Hawks and Gripen fighter jets.

Kasrils served as deputy to then defence minister Joe Modise from 1994 until 1999, the year in which Cabinet approved the deal.

He said he presided over a meeting in 1998 where requests for information from potential bidders were approved.

He said a request for information was different to a request for offers.

Kasrils said the decision he presided over concerned targets and requirements to draw up a report for the Advanced Fighter Trainer programme.

He said no costs were involved and described it as "merely window shopping".

Kasrils also said he supported Modise by engaging in deliberations and discussions on various matters related to the defence portfolio but he never played a role in the decision making.

He said while he occasionally presided over meetings in Modise's absence, he was guided by the minister on how to manage the meeting and would later report back to him.

Kasrils said he shared a good relationship with the late minister but as a deputy minister, he was not privy to all information.

He said he worked closely with Modise to establish a modern, inclusive national defence force and advised on policy formulation.

The inquiry was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the procurement of arms from French, British and Swedish countries by former President Thabo Mbeki's administration.

The arms deal cost South Africa billions of rand and many of the so-called benefits of the deal have not materialised.