Gavin Woods, a former chairman of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), told the Seriti Commission that former Defence Minister Joe Modise “benefitted” from the 1999 Arms Deal.
Responding to Commission chair, Judge Willie Seriti, Woods, a former Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP, said he knew of only Modise: “besides him it is unlikely any Cabinet members also benefitted,” he said. He explained the “benefits were not in the form of cash.”
Woods resigned his position as SCOPA chair in 2002. He said at the time his resignation was because of interference in the committee’s work by Cabinet Ministers, former ANC Chief Whip tony Yengeni, and former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala and then Deputy President Jacob Zuma. He claimed SCOPA was prevented from ensuring public concerns about the multi-billion Rand arms deal were investigated.
A substantial part of his 38 page statement to the commission, sitting in the Tshwane Metro council chambers in Pretoria, refers to articles published in the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Argus, Business Bay, Politicsweb and by the SA Press Association.
The New Age reports Seriti, who has previously opposed the use of newspaper articles as evidence, allowed Woods to proceed but warned him not to make unsubstantiated allegations on what he had read.
Cross examining Woods on behalf of former president Thabo Mbeki, former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and other politicians, Marumo Moerane asked whether he had evidence of corruption against his clients.
“I’m not saying they were involved in corruption. In fact, I defended Mbeki,” the paper reports Woods as saying.
He also said it was hard to believe South Africa’s arms deal was different to that of many other countries and free of corruption.
The deal, officially known as the Strategic Defence Procurement Package (SDPP) saw the airborne and maritime arms of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) acquire new front-line equipment in the form of fighter jets, lead-in-fighter jets, light utility helicopters, maritime helicopters, frigates and submarines.
The Commission is due to complete its work by November and present a report to President Jacob Zuma no less than six months later.