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Govt 'blocks arms deal queries'

2008-08-24 12:56

Johannesburg - Attempts by the government to obstruct the Democratic Alliance's enquiries into South Africa's multi-billion rand arms deal have continued, the party's arms deal spokesperson Eddie Trent said on Sunday.

Trent said the DA had received a response from Justice Director-General Menzi Simelane stating that the department would not give the DA access to the German and British Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreements with South Africa.

The MLAs set out the details of South Africa's co-operation with Britain and Germany in respect of their investigations into allegations of corruption connected with the arms deal.

"We believe that the German investigation ceased because of a lack of co-operation from South Africa, and we suspect that the British investigation may likewise also be ended due to a singular lack of assistance from the government," Trent said.

Releasing info

"If this is untrue, we challenge the Minister of Justice to refute this allegation by providing the public with substantive evidence that South Africa is co-operating fully with the British authorities.

"By accessing the MLAs, we would be able to hold government to account in terms of whether it assisted the German and British investigations.

"It is essential that our government co-operates fully with the investigations and ensures that any South Africans who benefited unlawfully from the billions of rands spent on the arms deal are publicly held to account."

The reason for the refusal that Simelane gave was as follows: "Disclosure of the copy of the request as well as other documents which accompanied the said request will in my view, prejudice the good international relationship that the Republic of South Africa has with the United Kingdom...

"I therefore refuse you access to the requested records... "

Said Trent: "Government has repeatedly stated that there were no irregularities in respect of the arms deal - yet they continue to obstruct and prevent access to relevant documents.

"If there are no irregularities, then government should have no reason to prevent those documents from being scrutinised and no reason to believe that the disclosure of any information in these documents would prejudice its reputation.

"We challenge government either to release the documents that they have refused access to, or to admit that they are concealing information."