Arms deal allegations: full judicial probe 'is crucial'

2008-08-04 00:00

Cape Town — The latest disclosures relating to President Thabo Mbeki’s alleged role in South Africa’s arms deal have served to reinforce the need for a full, unfettered judicial commission of inquiry into the whole deal, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein said yesterday.

Feinstein, a former ANC study group leader in Parliament’s Public Accounts committee, resigned in 2001 over the government’s handling of the arms deal.

He said the allegations on Mbeki have added to the “mountain” of allegations around the multi-billion rand deal.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Mbeki allegedly took a R30 million bribe from a German company to ensure that it won the submarine contract.

The newspaper alleged that Mbeki gave R28 million to the ANC and R2 million to then deputy president Jacob Zuma.

It said it sourced the information from a secret report compiled by a specialist risk consultancy based in the UK.

Feinstein said the latest allegations are the most serious he has heard relating to the arms deal.

“How much longer can we go on when every few months there are new allegations about some senior ANC member — and the ruling party and the government seem to refuse to allow the South African public to get to the bottom of what is being done with billions of rands of taxpayers’ money?”

The report from which the latest information is sourced is a “very serious document”, said the former MP, who is based in the UK. “Together with that, they have uncovered the final version of the affordability study that was taken to cabinet … in which it was made explicit that there were major risks to the economy if this deal was undertaken.

“These warnings were set aside. At a time when South Africa’s leaders were focusing on ensuring a stable economy, it seems remarkable that senior ministers would have taken a decision that ignored the serious concerns about the impact of the deal on the economy.

“They are putting a lot of information on the table, which raises serious questions about the judgment of senior political leaders … with all this in mind, why on earth did the South African government go ahead with the deal?”

Political analyst Frederick van Zyl Slabbert said yesterday the new revelations are “extremely disturbing”.

“We cannot afford to let these rumours flourish. We must get to the bottom of these rumours as soon as possible.”

Analyst Stephen Friedman said if the allegations are true, Mbeki must “have his day in court” lest supporters of Zuma conclude that the ANC president has been singled out unfairly in being charged with corruption.

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