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Mbeki: Govt did nothing illegal in arms deal

The former president said all decisions made were above board and well publicised.

Former president Thabo Mbeki during a break in proceedings at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry where he is testifying in Pretoria on 17 July 2014. Picture: Sapa.

PRETORIA - Former president Thabo Mbeki on Thursday said at no point did his government act in any illegal manner in respect to the controversial arms deal.

Mbeki took the stand at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry which was set up to investigate fraud and corruption related to the controversial deal.

As the deputy president at the time, Mbeki chaired an inter-ministerial committee responsible for decisions that led to the procurement.

He says the decision to procure arms was all done above board.

"It was a government decision which was based on very extensive consultation with the South African population, which included Parliament. To us it was a national decision."

During cross-examination, advocate Paul Hoffman pressed Mbeki to explain why South Africa embarked on one of the most expensive arms deals ever when the country didn't even have any enemies.

"Chairperson, at no point did the government act in any illegal manner knowingly or unknowingly."

Mbeki referred the advocate to the defence review commissioned at the time which dealt with the rationale.

The former president would often decline to answer a question, stating that a previous witness had already addressed it.

He couldn't answer questions relating to offsets because, as chair of the inter-ministerial committee, he presided over matters related to the principal contractor, not subcontractors.

Mbeki said the more expensive option was chosen because of the compatibility benefits of the equipment.