Allegations need answers

2008-08-05 00:00

WHEN a decade ago the South African National Defence Review said that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needed to be re-equipped to meet the needs of the new democracy, this newspaper was sympathetic to the general proposal. The Witness was particularly supportive of the case for the South African navy which had been the Cinderella of the services and starved of resources by successive Nationalist governments for half a century. While South Africa faces no immediate maritime threat, the country has an exceptionally long coastline and requires ships to protect its fishing resources. Whether the most suitable vessels were purchased is, however, now a matter of debate.

While the paper devoted its own resources to the story for six months, it was drawing on a secret report compiled last year by a United Kingdom specialist risk consultancy which was commissioned to investigate the worldwide activities and questionable business practices of Man Ferrostaal (which won the contract to supply three submarines to South Africa). Man Ferrostaal promised a reciprocal deal to build a stainless steel mill at Coega, an offset project which a feasibility study warned as being being risky and likely to fail, and which has done so.

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