‘Arms deal handled professionally’

Jayendra Naidoo says there was consensus between government departments and ministers.

A Gripen fighter jet, acquired in the arms deal. Picture: Dean Wingrin.

JOHANNESBURG - The chief government negotiator in South Africa's controversial arms deal testified today that the procurement process was conducted in a professional manner.

Jayendra Naidoo was testifying at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud and corruption in the multi-billion rand deal.

The inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma, is investigating the procurement of arms from French, British and Swedish countries under former president Thabo Mbeki's administration.

Naidoo reported directly to Mbeki at the time.

Today, he said there was consensus between departments and ministers that government had secured an affordable arrangement.

Naidoo said the affordability team consulted with the Reserve Bank as well as an international investment bank.

He told the commission no other banks were consulted to avoid premature leaks to the financial markets.

Former deputy defence minister Ronnie Kasrils is expected to continue his testimony tomorrow after being excused last week.

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 under then-defence minister Joe Modise from 1994 until 1999, the year in which Cabinet approved the deal.