Martin Welz

2008-08-05 00:00

The R30 million allegedly paid to President Thabo Mbeki in relation to the

R8-billion German sub-marine contract — as reported in the Sunday Times — can only have been a small part of the commissions or bribes paid to various parties in relation to that contract. Consider this: British investigators have estimated that arms giant BAE

Systems’s representatives in South Africa, Richard Charter (who died not long thereafter while canoeing on the Orange River) and Basil Hersov (who can’t remember to whom he distributed the money to) were involved in laundering an estimated R1,8 billion in “commission” within weeks of the aircraft deals being signed in 1999.

And what of the strange changes in the Corvette bids — and the French connection involving Mbeki’s visits to and from the directors of Thompsons, later Thales, now Thint — the ones he had forgotten about.

A few things emerge from all of this. Firstly, the African National Congress (ANC) has a problem: the vast majority of its supporters cannot afford food, let alone fund a political party. So to fund its infrastructure and campaigns, the party must look to funders it would rather not identify who demand their pound of flesh in profit or policy changes.

That way we end up paying R50 billion plus for inappropriate defence equipment to provide the party with perhaps half a billion in funding. (Assuming the other half billion plus went to the suits.)

Surely there are more rational — and less corrupting —ways of funding the democratic process?

Then there’s the prosecution of Jacob Zuma: in the light of the latest developments, it does look increasingly like a red herring that has been used to distract the media and the public from the bigger, unhappy picture. I don’t raise this in defence of Zuma. It’s natural for politicians to use any dirt that comes to hand against their competitors. It’s also the way democracy gets to benefit; when thieves fall out the truth will out.

But there is potential for even greater benefit. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should offer Mbeki and Zuma indemnity from prosecution — in return for their evidence to prosecute the corrupters and achieve cancellation of those corruptly concluded deals. Both men could redeem themselves with one stroke and still go down in history as fallible men who did great things for their country.

Quotes to remember …

“You cannot survive without bribing an official in South Africa.” — Essop Pahad, minister in charge of the president’s office.

“Sitting in government there are sophisticated thieves continually seeking ways to misdirect public resources away from the people to themselves.” — President Thabo Mbeki.

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