Bishops Welcome Arms Deal Debate
Johannesburg - The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) on Thursday said it welcomed the vigorous public debate about South Africa's controversial R43 billion arms procurement programme.
"Such dialogue deepens our social and moral consciousness and enhances participatory democracy," said SACBC president Archbishop Wilfrid Napier.
The SACBC said it recognised the constitutional requirement that the SA National Defence Force be adequately equipped.
It was also "deeply aware" of the government's socio-economic responsibilities relating to health-care, education, housing, and the provision of basic services, with which the arms deal competed for public funding, Napier said.
"It is therefore appropriate that the arms deal be scrutinised thoroughly and transparently," he said.
"We are now faced with a unique opportunity to consolidate South Africa's anti-corruption strategy by engaging all the means at our disposal for a thorough investigation into the arms deal.
"This is especially important given the cost of the arms purchases in relation to the urgent socio-economic needs of an ever-increasing number of people," Napier said.
The SACBC also renewed its call on President Thabo Mbeki to ensure that a forensic investigation revealed the "true nature and full extent of any irregularities that may have occurred".
"This investigation should be carried out by all the relevant agencies that the government itself established: the Auditor General, the Public Protector, the Special Investigation Unit, and the (National) Directorate for Public Prosecutions.
"An inclusive and rigorous investigation will strengthen public confidence and participation in the democratic process. It will also set an example internationally that would serve South Africa's standing well", Napier said. - Sapa
With acknowledgement to Sapa and News24.