DA Replaces Team of MPs on Committee
|Reporter||Wyndham Hartley, Linda Ensor|
Party expects conflict on arms probe
CAPE TOWN. The Democratic Alliance (DA), expecting more conflict between Parliament and government over the R43bn arms package, has beefed up its team on the public accounts committee, which is leading the investigation into the deal.
DA chief whip Douglas Gibson announced yesterday that the existing public accounts team of Willem Odendaal, New National Party (NNP), and Brian Bell and Graham McIntosh, both Democratic Party (DP), would be replaced by a new team headed by the DP's Raenette Taljaard, who becomes the DA's chief spokeswoman on the public accounts committee.
Taljaard will be supported by former Financial Mail editor Nigel Bruce and Francois Beukman. Alternates to serve on the committee will be Nick Clelland and Adriaan Blaas.
Formally the DA does not exist in parliamentary terms, but the DP and the NNP together have three places on the committee.
The DA's announcement and an outburst by Bruce also raised fears that the vital nonpartisan co-operation of MPs across party lines in the public accounts committee could be compromised. Bruce told the conference that there was nothing wrong with party political positions being taken in the committee. Senior party members were quick to forestall any promise of political fights being planned for the committee, saying under no circumstances would the nonpartisan traditions of the committee be allowed to become a "political bun fight".
Taljaard warned that the attention which the international community was applying to the suggestions of corruption in SA's arms deal should not be underestimated.
Meanwhile, Medical Research Council President Malegapuru Makgoba said yesterday if he were state president he would not rule in favour of the inclusion of the Heath special investigating unit into the arms probe.
Addressing the Cape Town Press Club, he said that the Heath unit should be excluded to prove the principle that the other independent institutions such as the auditor-general, public protector, national directorate of public prosecutions and the investigating directorate for serious economic offences had the capacity to investigate matters of this nature. Democratically established institutions were being sidelined by "one-person icons".
The outcry over the possible exclusion of the Heath unit implied that the other responsible institutions did not have the integrity and respect to undertake the investigation. Yet auditor general Shauket Fakie had indicated that he was prepared to stand by his report that there was prima-facie evidence of wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference yesterday called on Mbeki to ensure that the forensic investigation into the R43bn arms deal revealed the true nature and full extent of any irregularities that might have occurred.
With acknowledgement to Wyndham Hartley, Linda Ensor and Business Day.