“My memory into specific events during this acquisition period may not be correct, or I may simply not be in a position to recall some specific events at all due to the lapse of time,” Shaik told the inquiry in Pretoria.
“I do not intend to contradict their evidence [department of defence and Armscor officials and government ministers] in my testimony other than to try to explain some of the events that may not have been presented thus far to the commission.”
In a sworn statement presented to the inquiry, Shaik said he had no decision-making authority in the multi-billion rand arms procurement deal in 1999.
“The final decision rested with Cabinet and the minister of defence was the overall custodian of the defence acquisition programme outlined in the defence review, Modac [Ministry of defence acquisition] one to three studies and the Armscor Act,” said Shaik.
As a “special note” to the inquiry Shaik said as far as he knew the DOD (defence department) moved after 1994 to correct the wrongs of apartheid by involving all races in the acquisition of state purchases.
“To my knowledge, pre-1994, there was no person of colour that was authorised to supply military equipment or services to Armscor. This apartheid-era practice had to be corrected and the DOD was one of the first government departments to introduce a concept of black economic empowerment.”
He said the involvement of previously marginalised citizens created tension.
Government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the SA Air Force, and frigates and submarines for the SA Navy.
Shaik’s testimony has been scheduled to last the whole week at the commission’s public hearings into alleged corruption in the deal.
In February 2007, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine reported that German prosecutors were in possession of internal memos from Thyssen detailing meetings where Shaik allegedly demanded payment of US3 million to ensure the success of the German bid for the contract to build South Africa’s four corvettes.
The magazine detailed allegations that Shaik requested the bribe in 1998 and that in 2000, the company apparently deposited the money to a non-existent company in London.
In 2002, Shaik resigned from the public service after an inquiry found that he acted improperly by disclosing confidential information contained in the auditor general’s draft report on the arms deal to his own lawyers.
The commission – chaired by Judge Willie Seriti – was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago.
Zuma recently extended the term of the commission until April 30, 2015, after which it would be expected to issue a report within a six-month deadline.
Shaik is the brother of Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. Schabir Shaik was sent to jail in 2006 for facilitating a bribe from French arms company Thomson-CSF to Zuma. Shaik has since been released on medical parole.
Chippy Shaik is now based in Perth, Australia. He said he was in South Africa to testify at the inquiry.
Fana Hlongwane – who served as an arms consultant and adviser to then defence minister Joe Modise – has been scheduled to testify after Shaik, from November 24.