Rear Admiral William Robert Higgs gave testimony at the hearings of the arms deal commission in Pretoria today. Athandiwe Saba and Xolani Mbanjwa round up the most important points.
1. Higgs said everyone who would testify against the Arms Deal of 1997, including anti-arms deal crusader Terry Crawford-Browne, had participated in the 1996-1998 defence review which led to the finalisation of the arms procurement.
2. The state would have been sitting ducks if South African waters or land were invaded, had the arms deal not gone ahead.
3. In the early 1990s, a few years before the deal was signed, the navy had to retrench 2 000 personnel members because of budgetary constraints, which also hampered a number of crucial military projects. Some of those who were retrenched committed suicide. “It was a very difficult time for all of us,” said Higgs.
4. At the time when the arms deal was signed 55% of the country’s GDP came through the ports, which were highly dependent for security on the country’s navy.
5. The need for new equipment had been raised for more than 20 years prior to the democratic dispensation of 1994. The SA navy raised the requirement for new surface combatant vessels in 1980.
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