Arms deal started before ANC came into power - critic

2014-10-10 05:00
(File: AFP)

(File: AFP)

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Pretoria - Deliberations to purchase weapons, which later became the arms deal, started before ANC came to power in 1994, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

"It is pointed out in an article that Mr [Joe] Modise accompanied the CEO of Armscor to arms exhibitions before the transition. It is suggested this kind of contact started in the 80s," arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne said at the inquiry in Pretoria.

He said there was evidence showing that in the early 1980s, there were considerations to buy the weaponry.

"There were connections long before the transition. The contact between members of the ANC, particularly Mr Modise, [and arms manufacturers] long preceded even the unbanning of the ANC, let alone the actual transition," said Crawford-Browne.

"It was long before the preferred bidders were announced in November 1998. Corruption is always involved in arms deals."

He said the association between members of the ANC during the fight against apartheid later gave birth to the 1999 arms deal.

He made the explanation to fortify his earlier submission that the Hani assassination should be probed again.

"That almost tore the country apart and there have been horrendous allegations around it inquiries, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have not been able to resolve," Terry Crawford-Browne said.

"There have been allegations made to me and others linking Mr Modise to that assassination. There are allegations that it was done in conjunction with British aerospace through Rhodesian operatives and the white right-wing Mr Clive Derby-Lewis was simply a useful idiot."

He said if the matter was not dealt with, it would keep rearing its head.

Crawford-Browne was cross-examined at the inquiry by Marumo Moerane who represents several parties, including former president Thabo Mbeki, former defence minister Modise's family, and former finance minister Trevor Manuel.

"When it comes to arguing on the cogency of the evidence that you have given, it would be fair to argue that this commission should totally ignore your testimony because it is not grounded on fact but on speculation, opinion and rumour," said Moerane.

Crawford-Browne responded: "If that is what the commission wishes to do per your recommendation, I am afraid it will only compound the commission's already fragile credibility".

Hani’s death

He said conspiracies linking Modise to the murder of SA Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Chris Hani were in the public domain and were discussed at SACP gatherings.

"I have heard about it from numerous sources. At one SACP meeting [former] president Mbeki was harangued by people saying "Thabo tell us who killed Chris Hani," said Crawford-Browne.

He said the rumours created a wave of instability in the country.

"I am not wanting to fan rumours, but when these things occur, they must be addressed and investigated thoroughly," said Crawford-Browne.

This week, Crawford-Browne told the inquiry that Modise was poisoned.

"I was told by Bheki Jacobs six weeks before Mr Modise died that he was being poisoned, and that his death would be ascribed to cancer," he said.

"Mr Modise was known to have many enemies and it is also known there was considerable animosity between him and Mr Chris Hani dating from their times in exile."

Bheki Jacobs, also known as Uranin Vladimir, Hassan Solomon, and Hassan Osman, died at his mother's home in 2008 after a six-month battle with cancer.

Crawford-Browne said Jacobs was an ANC functionary, trained in the Soviet Union as an intelligence operative.

In 2003, Jacobs was arrested, and later exonerated, for allegedly plotting an assassination. The charge of conspiring to commit murder was watered down and finally dropped.

At the time, Jacobs reportedly believed his one-time comrade and later nemesis, Mo Shaik, to be behind his surprise arrest. They had both been involved in the ANC's intelligence structures in the early 1980s.

Uncovering corruption

Crawford-Browne testified that there were allegations that when Hani was assassinated in 1993, he was on the verge of exposing Modise's involvement in, and corruption relating to, the arms deal.

"It has been alleged that Mr Janusz Walus was ultimately employed by the [British arms manufacturer] BAE, perhaps by way of John Bredenkamp, the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean who was the second-largest recipient of those BAE bribes," he told the inquiry.

He said blaming Derby-Lewis for Hani's murder was merely a red herring to blame white right-wing elements, diverting attention from the British arms industry.

Derby-Lewis was convicted of conspiring to kill Hani by providing the gun Polish immigrant Walus used to kill him in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, on the East Rand, on 10 April 1993.

The 78-year-old former Conservative Party MP, who was sentenced to 25 years behind bars, has served more than 20 years of his sentence.

Derby-Lewis was initially sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished in 1995. He has been repeatedly denied parole.

Read more on:    terry crawford-browne  |  pretoria  |  arms deal

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