Arms deal cash for Mandela movie

2010-09-26 09:37

A German arms supplier mired in controversy over corruption allegations across the world is a key investor in the R260?million film of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom .

The movie, billed as South Africa’s most ambitious film project, is in pre-production by Anant Singh’s Videovision.

Mandela gave Singh the rights to produce the film version of his famous book.

City Press reveals today that Ferrostaal?– a successful bidder in a R6?billion submarine contract as part of the controversial arms deal, and which is being investigated in Germany, Greece and Portugal?– is an investor in the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s movie.

The investment was revealed in a single line in the latest National ­Industrial Participation Programme (NIPP) Performance ­Review released by the trade and industry department in Parliament last week. The review measured the
effect of the arms deal offset programme in South Africa.

Singh said in a statement sent from the US and which he insisted should not be edited: “The funding was obtained under the NIPP, an initiative of the government of South Africa, under the auspices of the department of trade and ­industry.

“The NIPP has supported a vast array of projects in various industries and, as the film industry has the status of being a strategic industry, this support will contribute to the growth of the industry.

“The production of Long Walk To Freedom will employ tens of thousands of people, and will benefit the economy,” he said.

“With respect to the terms, we are bound by confidentiality. The integrity and authenticity of the film will not be compromised in any way by funders who will not be in a position to assert any influence on the production.”

But the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for trade and ­industry, Tim Harris, said the ­party was shocked by the throw­away entry in the NIPP report.

“We are raising questions around the moral appropriateness of an arms company being investigated in several countries funding the life story of Nelson Mandela.”

The NIPP was launched in 1997 as a programme of the trade and industry department to use any government procurement of more than $10?million (about R70?million) to leverage ­investment, ­exports and technology development from suppliers. The arms deal dominates the programme.

The promise of counter-trade ­investment in South Africa by the companies from which billions of rands worth of warships and planes would be bought, was used to motivate for the 1999 arms deal.

But the offset programme has been widely condemned for ­lacking transparency and not ­delivering even half of the number of jobs it promised to generate when acquisitions were mooted.

Only 26?000 of the 65?000 jobs promised have been realised.

Ferrostaal was reported to be the second-largest obligator in terms of the arms deal and leads the ­German Submarine Consortium that finalised a contract in 2000 to supply three submarines to the South African Navy.

In March this year Ferrostaal, formerly MAN Ferrostaal, made headlines in Germany when Der Spiegel published allegations by a former executive of MAN, its parent company, that Ferrostaal was suspected of paying bribes to secure contracts. Ferrostaal also allegedly organised bribery payments on behalf of other firms for a fee. Ferrostaal’s Germany offices were raided as a result.

Greece has reportedly also instituted investigations to determine whether Ferrostaal paid bribes to politicians through a Greek company to secure a submarine deal with the state and whether Greece overpaid or agreed to deals for military equipment it did not need.

Also under investigation is whether Portuguese authorities were bribed by Ferrostaal to buy submarines.

Two years ago it was reported that former president Thabo Mbeki, who was the chairperson of the cabinet committee that supervised the 1999 arms deal, was fingered in a 2007 report by a UK risk consultancy to have allegedly received a R30 million bribe from MAN Ferrostaal to supply submarines.

Mbeki and MAN Ferrostaal denied the reports and indicated that they were considering legal action, but this has yet to materialise.

Harris said it made no sense that Mandela’s name be tarnished by links to a controversial arms company when the money could probably be raised just by his endorsement alone.

In a statement from Germany, Ferrostaal confirmed this week that it was a financial contributor to the film but that the indirect or civil offset projects were in no way related to the underlying deal of the submarines.

Clemens Pawlak, Ferrostaal executive manager of corporate communications, said confidentiality was agreed with regard to details of these offset projects and he could not comment on specifics.

Sello Hatang, Nelson Mandela Foundation’s manager of information and communication, said the foundation had no say in how funds for the film should be raised and the agreement with Videovision was that they would not get involved.

After Singh introduced the film’s director Tom Hooper to Mandela last year, Singh said on his website that as “the custodian of the rights, I have a major responsibility to Madiba and to the nation to portray his amazing legacy in a major motion picture. This is a challenging and daunting task and there is no compromise.”

Harris said it “raises a serious moral question for the arms deal to be funding this movie”.

“For some reason the film investment is not detailed. Both the producers and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have the burden of explanation to clarify the moral ambiguities.”

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