Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2001-03-26 Reporter: Staff Reporters and Sapa Editor:

Mystery Employee "Bought Yengeni's Benz"

Publication  The Star
Date 2001-03-26
Reporter Staff Reporters and Sapa
Web Link

DaimlerChrysler SA, manufacturers of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, admitted on Monday that the ML320 luxury 4x4 vehicle owned by ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni was bought by an employee of a partner company under a car-bonus scheme. 

DaimlerChrysler spokesperson Annelise van der Laan said the car was bought by a senior staffer of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa). Dasa is a subsidiary company, which successfully bid for the tender to supply radar tracking equipment as part of the government's R43-billion arms deal. 

Yengeni has maintained his silence on the vehicle 

Van der Laan refused to name the employee, saying the matter was the subject of an internal investigation. She said the probe was to determine whether there had been any unethical behaviour. However, she said it was normal practice for staff members to be able to buy a vehicle once a year as part of employee perks. She added that once the vehicle had been bought, Dasa had no further control. 

The company was also investigating a possible link between the Dasa employee who bought the car and Reutech Radar Systems, the joint-venture company that secured the radar contract. 

Yengeni on Monday maintained his silence on the vehicle as the ANC rallied to his side. But Justice Minister Penuell Maduna warned that the government would act if it were found that the vehicle had been acquired by underhand means. Yengeni, who heads the ANC in the National Assembly, has played a major part in the arms deal as head of parliament's joint standing committee on defence. More recently, he was drafted in to help resolve the crisis in the public accounts committee, which last year called for a wide-ranging probe of the deal. 

'We won't protect Tony Yengeni' 

The Yengeni car issue was raised on Monday at the fortnightly conference in Pretoria of National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, Auditor-General Shauket Fakie and Public Protector Selby Baqwa. The team reported "with satisfaction the progress that had been made in both the forensic and criminal investigation" of the arms probe but made no mention of Yengeni's vehicle. 

Maduna said that whoever had information regarding corruption in the arms deal should submit it to the police. "Why do you want to keep it your own personal secret, because the moment must come for you to be able to say 'I know about Tony Yengeni's car' and say this in public," he said. "We won't protect Tony Yengeni ... if indeed you have the necessary evidence against him." 

The ANC said it would not suspend Yengeni before the outcome of the investigation. 

Party spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama repeated calls saying there should not be a witch-hunt of individual MPs as the arms deal should be investigated as a whole. 

Ngonyama said Yengeni had met ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe in Johannesburg on Sunday, but he declined to give further details.

Sapa reports that parliament's ethics committee will consider a request from the Democratic Alliance that it investigate the circumstances surrounding Yengeni's acquisition of his luxury vehicle, committee chairperson Sister Bernard Ncube said. 

With acknowledgement to Sapa and The Star.