ANC arms deal probe

2008-01-10 00:00

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress has decided to appoint a committee to conduct an investigation into the government’s controversial arms deal which is nearly a decade old. This is a telling example of the present gulf between the party structures, now led by Jacob Zuma and his supporters, and the government, still led by President Thabo Mbeki. The ANC is in fact going to be investigating itself.

Many other probes into the arms deal have already taken place. Several books have been written on the subject and court cases have occurred, such as those involving Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik.

It is only now, in the aftermath of Zuma’s election as its president, that the ANC has decided to enter the field, basing its decision on the need for “a detailed, factual report”. This suggests a dispassionate inquiry but the purpose is clearly not neutral or objective. It is to provide Zuma’s followers with the ammunition they believe they need to support their president in the run-up to his trial for fraud and corruption later this year.

To be well-informed on the issues involved is a legitimate quest. Yet any suggestion of political pressure on due judicial process is deeply disturbing, as former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson and human rights lawyer, George Bizos, have recently pointed out. The case against Zuma must be left unambiguously to the court to decide in a free and fair manner.

Another purpose of the ANC’s inquiry could be to deflect attention from Zuma to others, particularly in the Mbeki camp, who may also have benefited personally and illegally from the arms deal. The report arising from the inquiry is not to be made public, implying that this is an internal ANC matter.

The investigation is nothing less than a strategic intervention to bolster Zuma and expose others. It will have the effect of sharpening and sustaining the present divisions in the governing party and contributing to the unsettled state of this country’s body politic in 2008.

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