Ex-defence man took satellite answers to the grave

2014-01-24 00:00

SOME of the answers to the many questions surrounding the government’s secretive contract with a Russian satellite company may have gone to the grave with the former secretary of defence.

January Masilela, who served in this post since 1999, in December 2006 initiated an investigation of the so-called Project Flute spy satellite contract.

Sources close the project explained this week to sister paper Beeld that the satellite, the Russian Condor-E, in 2006 only existed on paper. There was a prototype, but it was static.

The Russians needed funding to literally get their project off the ground. After first approaching and being rebuffed by China, they called in favours from the South African government.

Using the good relations their country had established during the armed struggle, the Russians placed pressure on South Africa’s government to fund the satellite.

The source claims an initial investment of several million dollars was made when the contract was signed in 2008 between the South African and Russian governments, after money was found elsewhere in the national budget. Directly after the payment, the project went “dark”.

Masilela died in a mysterious vehicle crash and his body was totally burnt before he could get any answers about Project Flute.

According to Beeld’s informants, the project is still active, which means more taxpayers’ money may be channelled into the secretive project.

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