Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2001-01-22 Reporter: Moses Mudzwiti Editor:

Mandella Slams Heath's Arms Deal Allegations

Publication  The Star
Date 2001-01-22
Reporter Moses Mudzwiti
Web Link

Nelson Mandela has finally entered the storm over Judge Willem Heath's exclusion from the probe into the R43-billion arms deal.

Until now, the former president's attitude to the exclusion of Heath - whom he appointed to head the Special Investigating Unit during his presidency - has been a matter of speculation.

Mandela himself has said nothing in public on the matter.

But The Star can disclose on Monday that Mandela telephoned Heath on Saturday to rebuke him over his apparent suggestion that Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki were involved at some level in alleged corruption in the arms deal.

The suggestion, denied by Heath on Sunday night, is made in an organogram, which places Mandela and Mbeki among the beneficiaries of corruption. The diagram was paraded by Mbeki during his televised announcement to the nation on Friday.

After a series of telephone calls between the two men - one of which related to Heath's request to Mandela for a reference to assist his search for a new job - Mandela finally called Heath to rebut the corruption allegations.

He told Heath he was disappointed that information contained in the organogram linking him to a company suspected of corruption had not been made known to him.

"I will not be used for wrong things," Mandela told Heath, The Star's sources said, explaining that Mandela meant that he felt himself to be incorruptible.

'I have never made any negative allegations against Mr Mandela'

During the week, Mandela had agreed in a telephone conversation to give Heath a recommendation, provided that he made his request in writing. Heath declined and instead requested that the former president verbally recommend him whenever prospective employers called.

"I didn't want to bother Mr Mandela with a written testimonial, so I asked for a verbal reference," Heath explained last night from his East London home.

He denied that Mandela had rebuked him. "Our conversation was private and cordial.

"I had until this weekend not seen the organograms, which were sent to me by a newspaper," Heath added.

"The contents are obviously not correct. I would never accuse Mr Mandela of any negative actions involving the arms deal.

"I have never made any negative allegations against Mr Mandela," said Heath, who revealed he would not be contesting Mbeki's decision to exclude his unit from the arms-deal probe.

Sources close to Mbeki said Mandela was furious when he was informed that the organograms were similar to the one in Heath's possession.

Meanwhile, a meeting on Monday of parliament's standing committee on public accounts - which produced the report calling for the Heath unit to be involved in the probe - will show whether, as expected, the ANC's MPs on the committee have done an about-turn on Heath's involvement, which they earlier backed.

With acknowledgement to Moses Mudzwiti and Independent Online.