Arms deal mystery

2011-09-17 00:00

SO the African National Congress-led government has finally woken up to the real­ity that the nuisance, which it perceives the arms deal to be, will not go away unless issues raised about it are sufficiently dealt with.

It’s been over 10 years since the controversial arms and fighter jets were procured from companies around the world, and we are still in the dark about why the country needed to spend so much money on arms and ammunition.

It is not a secret that when governments want to siphon off millions, or even billions, from the state coffers, transactions like the arms deal are the safest way to do this.

Suppliers of arms know full well the nature of the transactions, and it has become common practice to incorporate “commissions” into the cost structure. Such commissions are normally agreed upon before the tenders are awarded as this is a prerequisite, however underhand.

When former president Nelson Mandela took over as the first democratically elected president, those closer to the high echelons of power will tell you that Mandela’s presidency was a ceremonious one and that his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, was effectively running the country, calling the shots and delegating, even to the president himself.

Mandela’s deliverables include lifting the 1995 Rugby World Cup trophy with captain Francois Pienaar and the Africa Cup of Nations cup with captain Neil Tovey, among others. Mbeki was busy getting the country’s first democratic constitution approved by all parties, hence his “I am an African” speech during what proved to be a momentous occasion.

The arms deal was also Mbeki’s baby, as he took ownership of the project at every level. It is unfortunate that the defence minister at the time, Joe Modise, went to his grave with secrets of the arms deal, but I am sure that his special adviser Fana Hlongwane would be able to shed some light on the questions that remain unanswered.

Then again, who will touch Hlongwane? It will definitely not be the commission of inquiry that is to be set up by President Jacob Zuma as the people implicated in the arms deal will do their best to protect Hlongwane as it is in their interests to do so.

I have always said that if justice is to be done regarding the arms deal, half of this country’s members of Parliament would be in jail.

One just has to look at how many parliamentarians were implicated in the Travelgate scandal to realise how gullible and short-sighted our beloved politicians are.

If they risked going to jail and losing their jobs for a few hundreds of thousands of rands, how much more would they do when figures involved are in the millions?

Is Zuma’s decision to launch a commission of inquiry an acceptance on his part that he may not return for a second term, as both ANC president and the country’s president, and he wants to get rid of this “rash in a moist place” while he is in charge? For his own good, I hope Zuma’s move does not backfire and he ends up shooting himself in the foot.

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