Publication: Noseweek Issued: Date: 2001-02-01 Reporter: Editor:

Arms and the Man




Date February 2001, Issue 31

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Let’s cut the crap, Mr President. Your name is at the top of our organogram because, when it comes to answering questions about SA’s arms procurement programme, the buck stops with you. 

And, by leading the attack on Judge Heath and waving the big stick at the other, more timid, investigating agencies, you are leading what looks to us more and more like a cover-up. 

We note that, when summoned, Auditor General Shouket Fakie and Public Protector Selby Baqwa (your approved investigators) rushed to give you a secret briefing on the state of their enquiries. 

Dear reader, it’s now well known that our Public Protector, Advocate Baqwa – he who is still bound in holy matrimony to Mrs Baqwa – has or had a mistress. And that on or about the night of 30 October last, after he had spent the day presiding over the ombudsmans’ conference in Durban, the said Baqwa proceeded from his luxury suite at the Hilton to said mistress’s more modest accommodation at the City Lodge, when and where he did grievously assault the young lady aforesaid. (This upon discovering that, contrary to hostelry rules, she was entertaining another male guest in her room after 9pm.) 

After straightening his tie, the surprised guest rushed to summon hotel security who, in turn, summoned the police, who briefly detained the said Baqwa. A charge of assault was laid by the young lady, but, some days later, the charge was withdrawn. 

That was the end of the matter as far as the police were concerned. But President Mbeki’s close ally, Minister of Justice Penuel Maduna was still very interested indeed. Within days Maduna had dispatched a deputy director general of his department in Pretoria to Durban, to gather all the facts. Mr Baqwa must have been very nervous. After all, a philanderer and mistress-batterer is surely not a fit and proper person to be our Public Protector? But, publicly, the minister of justice had done nothing with the information at his disposal. Maybe Baqwa has promised to be a good boy in future? 

As for Fakie, what was he doing in the President’s office? By law the auditor general is our most independent public official. He is not answerable to, and cannot be fired by, anyone in the executive – including the president. He is answerable only to Parliament. Fakie’s apparent willingness to answer privately to the president on a matter he had specifically been ordered by Parliament to investigate, casts serious doubt on his ability to uphold the high standards of independence required of his position. 

It’s time to reveal, dear reader, some of those things the president knows, but doesn’t want independently investigated.

Last year, after months of detailed negotiations, representatives of Armscor, Denel and the government met with representatives of the government of the Republic of Yemen to sign an arms deal. In terms of the deal, Yemen was, inter alia, to buy 21 of our old Mirage jet fighters. A great deal. But, at the last minute, when all were present and ready to sign, our old friend Shamin “Chippy” Schaik (pictured top left), head of Arms Procurement for the Department of Defence, brazenly announced that he would only sign on behalf of the government if the buyers or brokers paid a “commission” – totaling tens of millions – into a bank account specified by him.  The percentage he demanded was so substantial that it could not be accommodated in the already settled purchase price.  As a result, the deal was off and South Africa lost out. 

Several months ago the South African High Commission in London handed a statement detailing these events to the National Intelligence Service. 

President Mbeki has, inexplicably, chosen to remain silent about the matter.  Chippy Shaik remains in his powerful position.  Some possible explanations are suggested by our organogram.  We note, for instance, the close links between the Shaik brothers and the ANC’s intelligence structures – and their links to the party treasury (see nose 30).  Could the party have stood to share in the commission demanded by Mr Shaik?  Is that maybe one of the reasons why the president is so chippy about our organogram? 

A little more than a year ago, one of Chippy’s old pals from their spying days at the University of Durban Westville, Jayendra Naidoo, was appointed by President Mbeki to renegotiate SA’s then still only R30-billion (sic) arms package, so as to make it “more affordable”.  This was supposedly to be achieved by negotiating better “offset” deals. 

“Offsets” are massive investments that our foreign arms suppliers have promised (sic) to ensure are made in projects in SA.  It is claimed these projects will create jobs and generate income to help cover, or “offset”, the cost of the weapons purchases (which would otherwise be money down the drain).

Jayendra, one-time trade unionist who was previously married to prominent ANC MP Pregs Govender, now has a charming Scandinavian wife – which should have helped make his negotiations with the Swedes that much more congenial. 

Indeed, it was subsequently announced to much fanfare that, thanks to Naidoo’s efforts, the offsets to be linked to the R30b (or R43b, or R60b – the amount keeps growing as the rand keeps dropping) arms purchases would be worth a glorious R110b and generate 64 000 new jobs! 

But then a senior executive of SAAB, Swedish manufacturer of the Grippen jet fighters ordered by SA for a billion or ten, want and spoilt it all.  Referring to Naidoo’s figures, he told the Swedish newspaper, Finanstidningen: “The South Africans do not understand their own model.  There is a great intellectual problem.  Those who decide, cannot follow in the maze of figures.”  (Jayendra and Liv have since built themselves a sweet R1.5m house in Oslo.) 

Next the Coalition for Defence Alternatives (whose patrons include Archbishop Tutu and his successor, Archbishop Ndungane) declared with typical candour: “offsets are simply a scam by the armaments industry, with the connivance of politicians, to fleece the taxpayers of both supplier an recipient countries.” 

During Swedish prime minister Goran Persson’s visit to SA in 1999, his adviser Roger Hallhag admitted that offsets are internationally discredited – even forbidden – as a component of arms transactions because they are so open to corruption.  Why, then, was Sweden persisting with them as part of its arms deal with South Africa? “Lower standards apply in Third World countries,” was his candid reply.  At least now we know what “African renaissance” means to the Swedes: a not-to-be-resisted rip-off opportunity. 

There are other clues that suggest that the offsets are not as beneficial and watertight as the government would have us believe, the most obvious one being the secrecy that continues to surround them.  Just how Shaiky they are is demonstrated by the government’s recent haste to downgrade the proposed Coega stainless steel (steal?) plant, which was punted as a major R6-billion German contribution to the offset programme.  When informed critics were easily able to point out the economic absurdity of the project – SA’s existing steel plant already has difficulty selling its production into a glutted world market – new plans for a much smaller, R1.6b plant were whipped out of the bottom drawer to placate them. 

For a start, if that’s the scale of revision we are to expect when challenged by reality, then the total offsets are likely to be worth closer to R30-billion, rather than the “promised” R110-billion.  But then, between friends, what’s the loss of another R80-billion to the people of SA? 

Linked to the steelmill project is an equally ludicrous harbour project. Why is our government so desperate to help sustain the illusion? Here are some possible answers. 

Chippy Shaik has claimed that he recused himself from all meetings at which decisions were taken which might have benefited his relatives in the arms business.  But now hear this: the reasons why Erich Esterhuizen resigned as MD of Armscor was because Chippy Shaik … changed the minutes of a meeting chaired by him at which the criteria for the lead-in fighter-trainer programme were set.”

Armscor official 2: “That Chippy Shaik recused himself from the deliberations and decisions of the Project Control Board is rubbish.  I know, because I was there … Chippy stayed on in the meeting and took an active role in the discussions and influenced the decision-making.  I’m prepared to go on the record on this if formally approached….”

Navy source 1: “I was chief of naval [title deleted] …. The rot started with the then vice president, Thabo Mbeki.  Bazan of Spain [had been] identified as the preferred supplier of a Corvette to the SA Navy … after Armscor and the Navy had been through the long process of proposals from many suppliers.  Then Vice President Mbeki went on an official visit to Germany … [when] he returned he told Armscor to halt the tender process and to give Germany a chance to tender again.  “In a nutshell, Bazan’s team left SA in a huff and Germany got the tender.  But there’s a lot more to it: The [German] Meko is a sophisticated and complex ship that the SA Navy will find difficult to maintain.  I think the Navy became so fed up with politics that they were happy to accept anything.”

Navy source 2: “[Captain Kamerman, Corvette project director for the Dept of Defence] is in this very difficult position because he and the [then] Chief of the Navy, Admiral Woodburne, were called in front of Thabo Mbeki and told how this (Corvette) programme was going to happen.”  Mmm mmm. And none of this is news to the government! 

Ever since the Mail and Guardian revealed the full contents of the letter Winnie M recently wrote to Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the world of spooks has been awash with stories about President Mbeki’s real or rumoured relationships with women in cabinet and party circles.

The salient extract from Winnie’s letter reads: “[President Mbeki] accused me of telling Linda Zama … that he had taken comrade Shilowa’s wife one evening and brought her back at 5am.” 

Zama, a recently defrocked attorney, had, it emerges, immediately reported the alleged storytelling to Mbeki.  (Which lends a whole new dimension to the mystery about the R200 000 loan Ms Zama is reported to have received from ANC party funds to fill the holes in her trust account.)  Adding weight to the story was the subsequent intervention by Mbeki’s old comrade, Jacky Selebe.  (Selebe served under Mbeki in the ANC-in-exile’s department of information and publicity, and is today head of the SA Police).  Selebe approached the Sunday Times “in his personal capacity” to dissuade them from publishing the letter.  He was at least partially successful there. 

The president’s relationship with his wife, Zenzile, is widely perceived as formal only.  He has, or has had, close relationships with several women who are either in his cabinet circle or who are married to top officials – which raises the old chicken-and-egg question. 

We have been told that Mrs Mbeki recently consulted a spiritual adviser about an all-night visit her husband made to the home of one of his female colleagues.  [They weren’t discussing Uganda, surely?]  Which raises another question: if his wife doesn’t trust him, why should we? 

What is known is that comrade Gibson Njenje is always anxiously wanting to ensure that the president is never without feminine company.  (Whether the president appreciates this concern, we don’t know.)  Njenje was head of counter-intelligence at ANC headquarters in Shell House – it was in that capacity that he had dealings with resident Mafia boss Vito Palazzolo – but, today, he is more often to be seen at Jo’burg’s Summit Club, where he is a regular high roller. Blip.  Blip.  Sorry, time’s up. More next time. 

With acknowledgment to Noseweek.