New arms deal probe - 'Why only now?'

2011-09-15 22:28
Cape Town - Political parties have on Thursday welcomed President Jacob Zuma's announcement of a new commission of inquiry into the arms deal on Thursday, but the question of "why only now" seems to be on the minds of most.

The Inkatha Freedom Party's Koos van der Merwe expressed reservations about the motives behind the decision.

"The question must be asked: why only now? The arms procurement programme was initiated in the late 90s, and has since the beginning been under a cloud of suspicion of corruption and bribery."

The only logical inference was that all the evidence might now have been destroyed and that the government could therefore finally proceed with such an inquiry.

The IFP awaited further details on the commission's terms of reference and composition, he said.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu  echoed Van der Merwe's sentiments.

"We cannot help but wonder why it has taken so long for the government to do it. Could it be related to the amount of evidence destroyed?"

He said the commission would clear any doubts the public might have about the role played by the previous administration in the arms deal.

"It will also shed light on the role played in the arms deal by senior ANC leaders who were part of the previous administration who also hold senior positions in the current administration," Holomisa said.


Earlier on Thursday, the president said a commission would be appointed to "investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the arms deal".

In 2009, legal proceedings were instituted in the Western Cape High Court asking the court to direct the president to appoint an independent judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of wrongdoing, or to require him to reconsider his refusal to do so.

It later transpired that the Western Cape High Court was the wrong forum to hear the matter.

An application was then brought in the Constitutional Court. The matter was set down for hearing on November 17.

Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj said the president assumed office when the matter was already pending in the courts of law.

"He had previously taken a view that since the matter was the subject of litigation in a court of law, he should allow the legal process to take its course," Maharaj said.

"However, he has since taken into account the various developments around this matter and also the fact that closure on this subject will be in the public interest."

Zuma had requested Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe to take the necessary steps to put the decision into effect.

"The president will soon announce the terms of reference and the composition of the commission, including the time frames," Maharaj said.

Radebe's spokesperson Tlali Tlali said further details could be made available as early as Friday.

"We cannot rule out a possibility of that happening tomorrow [on Friday]," said Tlali.


Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said her party had consistently called for this course of action for nearly 10 years.

"New information concerning alleged corruption in the arms deal is now emerging in Sweden and Germany," she said.

Zille said the efficacy and legitimacy of the commission would depend on its terms of reference and composition.

"The president must give the commission a full scope to investigate any and all aspects of the arms deal and have the powers to subpoena witnesses and documentation," she said.

"He must appoint commissioners whose integrity and independence is beyond question, and who will conduct the enquiry with particular attention to detail."

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille appealed to the president to appoint a retired Constitutional Court judge to conduct the investigations.

She said: "I appeal that the commission must call on and make provision for all persons with information to give evidence in public."

De Lille said all the allegations contained in the "De Lille Dossier", some of which had led to the arrest and conviction of Schabir Shaik and Tony Yengeni, should be included in the terms of reference of the commission.


SA Communist Party spokesperson Malesela Maleka said in a statement that the SACP hoped the commission would be allowed to get to the bottom of the allegations and lay the matter to rest once and for all.

"This indeed is a bold step that the president has undertaken and we believe as the SACP that it signals the seriousness of this administration in fighting corruption," said Maleka.

The African Christian Democratic Party said the commission would face a "formidable task" given the time that had lapsed and the enormity of evidence involved.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said: “The time-lapse will have enabled those who are alleged to have received bribes to dispose of their ill-gotten gains."

He said the appointment of the commission would send a strong signal that bribery and corruption would not be tolerated.

Pieter Groenewald, of the Freedom Front Plus, said the arms deal had not only harmed the image of the SA National Defence Force, but of the whole of South Africa.

"Through a commission, closure could be obtained about the whole matter and the books can be closed on it."


The Helen Suzman Foundation said it trusted that Zuma would be "mindful" of his constitutional obligations when determining the commission's terms of reference.

"The Helen Suzman Foundation stands by its view that the terms of reference of the inquiry and the composition of the commission will be paramount in determining the legitimacy of this inquiry," it said in a statement.

The Helen Suzman Foundation said it trusted that Zuma would be "mindful" of his constitutional obligations when determining the commission's terms of reference.

Read more on:    sacp  |  da  |  ff+  |  anc  |  udm  |  ifp  |  id  |  helen zille  |  jacob zuma  |  pieter groenewald  |  mac maharaj  |  koos van der merwe  |  jeff radebe  |  patricia de lille  |  arms deal  |  corruption  |  government spending

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