"Dubious Motives" for Heath Move
Cape Town - A possible explanation for the
exclusion of the Heath special investigation unit from the probe into the R43.8
billion arms deal, was that the unit fell "outside the immediate political
sphere of influence" of ANC leadership in the government.
And the Heath unit, as
the "most independent" of the four proposed bodies to conduct the
probe, could have disrupted proceedings if the deal had proved not to be in the
best interests of the public, with huge foreign implications.
remarks were made on Tuesday by, respectively, demoted ANC study-group leader in
the standing committee for public accounts (Scopa) Andrew Feinstein, and Scopa
chairperson Dr Gavin Woods of the IFP, during a talk they delivered at the
University of the Western Cape Law Department.
The objections raised
by four cabinet ministers over Scopa's recommendations were
"superficial" and based on "dubious motives", Woods noted.
Feinstein emphasised that he was not commenting in his capacity as ANC member of
Cabinet exerted 'fair amount
He said the executive
authority (Cabinet) exerted "a fair amount of pressure" on Scopa ANC
members over the committee's 14th report following its acceptance in Parliament
in November last year. In the report, Scopa recommended an investigation into
alleged irregularities into the arms deal.
Feinstein added that
the pressure on Scopa had been a particular result of the inclusion of the Heath
unit in the probe. The other bodies, which have in the meantime started the
investigation, are the Auditor-general, the Public Protector, and the
Investigating Directorate into Serious Economic Offences.
President Thabo Mbeki
refused to issue a proclamation for the Heath unit to join the probe. Feinstein
said he was proud of the fact that ANC Scopa members had resisted the pressure.
'Nobody really knew the
Responding to a
question from Professor Jeremy Sarkin of the university as to why the government
had opposed the inclusion of the Heath unit, Woods responded that "nobody
really knew the answer". He cited the "most popular" explanation
as being that the government did not want a "thorough probe" into the
arms deal. Cabinet criticism of the 14th Scopa report was directed at the points
where the report recommended a probe.
He described the
attack launched in January by four cabinet ministers as an "expensive
sideshow", distracting attention from the real issue.
Scopa took a
well-considered decision by including the four agencies. The ANC leadership's
interpretation of the 14th report as not being well-considered was proved wrong
by former president Nelson Mandela's legal adviser Professor Fink Haysom.
Woods said he still
firmly held the belief that the Heath unit had certain powers which would have
ensured a comprehensive probe. Of the four bodies, the unit also had the most
sweeping resources at its disposal, and Judge Willem Heath had seen the bigger
picture from an early stage in the investigation.
that the issues surrounding Scopa and the arms package impacted fundamentally on
the constitutionally-decreed supervisory role of Parliament towards the
The system was being
undermined by a contradiction: members of Parliament were required to act in a
supervisory capacity over the executive authority; however, they were members of
the same party as the executive authority.
Another crucial issue
was whether political parties would allow their members "to think
independently" and assume positions in opposition to that of party
that the outcome of the arms deal issue would conclusively determine the quality
of public office in future.
With acknowledgement to News24.