Greasing the Wheels
IT HAS yet to be shown
that there was a direct link between SA's multibillion-rand defence procurement
and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace's apparent gift or longterm loan of a luxury
vehicle to African National Congress MP Tony Yengeni. But the affair raises
serious questions about the conduct of both the company and Yengeni.
Yengeni did not have
the political clout to influence the award of contracts in a significant way.
Although DaimlerAerospace did win a subcontract, it was not a major beneficiary
of the procurement. For example, its bids to supply jet fighters and highly
sophisticated radar systems were not successful.
If there was a gift or
loan and the evidence seems compelling it is more likely to have been a
low-level schmooze at a time government was moving towards rearmament. As
chairman of Parliament's joint defence committees, Yengeni could influence broad
defence policy and supply information about state plans.
Yengeni seems to have
bent the facts by claiming he had bank finance in the initial months the car was
in his name. If he did not pay for the vehicle, he failed to declare a gift in
terms of Parliament's code of conduct. At the very least, one would expect him
to face some form of parliamentary sanction.
But by focusing
excessively on Yengeni, there is a risk that he may become the fall guy for more
powerful interests in the arms saga. Attention may also be diverted from the
dubious role of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace. DaimlerChrysler SA now says a senior
employee bought the car before it was registered to Yengeni, and that the firm
had no control over later events. How would the employee benefit personally by
giving or lending his R350000 vehicle to a politician?
The practice of lending cars to politicians,
journalists and others on the nevernever, so that they can "test"
them, seems widespread in SA. Favours of this magnitude go beyond creating
legitimate goodwill they are a form of bribery. Business people cannot complain
that corruption is harming SA's investment climate even as they grease the
With acknowledgement to Business Day.