Arms: Mbeki ‘must explain’

2008-03-17 00:00

Cape Town — Opposition calls for total clarity in the ongoing multi-billion rand arms deal saga gained momentum yesterday, following a fresh call — this time from business tycoon and senior ANC member Tokyo Sexwale — on President Thabo Mbeki to explain his role in the deal.

The DA called on Mbeki to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the deal, saying that unless he does so speedily, South Africa’s reputation will be fatally undermined.

The Independent Democrats called on the ANC to take the nation into their confidence and come clean on who benefited financially from the arms deal kickbacks.

The renewed call for an explanation came in the wake of allegations in last week’s Mail & Guardian that Mbeki, several government officials and the ANC scored financially from kickbacks relating to the deal.

These allegations reportedly sparked Sexwale to call on Mbeki during a meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on Friday to declare whether he is implicated in corruption related to the deal, as alleged in investigations in Germany.

Sexwale, supported by other NEC members, said the ANC needs clarity on the deal to avoid the organisation from being embarrassed by the scandal, which continues to unravel in relation to the arms deal.

Sexwale’s call came in the same week that ANC president Jacob Zuma tried to overturn a ruling by the Durban High Court that the National Prosecuting Authority could obtain documents from Mauritius for use as evidence in his corruption trial.

Eddie Trent, DA spokesman on the arms deal, said yesterday that it is becoming increasingly clear that the issue is now being used to settle scores within the ANC’s ranks.

He said the need for a commission is now more pressing due to the mounting allegations regarding Mbeki’s own involvement in wrongdoing. "If the president does not act decisively there is every chance that his own credibility, the integrity of the presidency and … the reputation of the country could be fatally undermined," Trent said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the ANC would do better to call for a proper judicial inquiry, so that the matter could be laid to rest once and for all, than to probe the roles of its own members.

He also said the government should hand over to the Scorpions the so-called "Mabandla dossier" — a collection of documents reportedly showing that German arms giant ThyssenKrupp desperately lobbied the South African government in an attempt to head off a German probe into the arms deal.

German prosecuting authorities are currently probing claims that the company bribed South African officials and politicians to land a contract for warships for the SA Navy.

ID leader Patricia de Lille slammed the ANC NEC call on Mbeki to come clean on the deal, saying it "stinks of hypocrisy".

"The truth will eventually come out, so my advice to the ANC is to take the nation into their confidence and come clean," she said.

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