Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-12 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Don't Delay Arms Probe - Ndungane

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-12
Reporter Sapa
Web Link

Johannesburg - The government should honour parliament's recommendation to implement a high level investigation into the controversial R43 billion arms deal without delay, Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said on Sunday.

Failure to do this would pose a serious threat to South Africa's "fragile" democracy. "One of the constitutional functions of parliament is the exercise of oversight over the executive," Ndungane said. 

'Banana Republic' Warning

"Were the executive to override parliament and set up its own terms of reference for this investigation as the apartheid government used to do, South Africa would enter into a downward slippery road to becoming a banana republic."

In terms of the deal, government plans to buy four corvettes and three submarines from companies in Germany, 30 light utility helicopters from Agusta in Italy, 12 Hawk lead-in fighter trainers from Britain and nine rms advanced light fighter aircraft from Sweden. A further 12 Hawks and 19 Gripens will be bought at a later stage.

At a press conference held in Johannesburg on Friday, the four ministers involved - Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin - defended the deal's integrity.

Erwin scoffed at reports that the price of the deal had jumped from R30.3 billion to R43 billion in a single year. 'Misunderstanding' by Committee?Manuel said the difference was the result of a misunderstanding by the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts and a flawed report prepared by it. 

Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance spokesperson Raenette Taljaard said on Sunday that she had written to the portfolio committee on public enterprises to request a special hearing on the offset benefits promised to weapons manufacturer Denel. 

"Given that offset benefits to the parastatals in particular are frequently trumpeted as a reason for an industrial participation approach, the public enterprises portfolio committee must add its voice to scrutinise the promised BAe/Saab offsets to Denel," Taljaard said. 

Justice Minister Penuell Maduna is expected to announce on Monday whether he will recommend to President Thabo Mbeki that Judge Willem Heath's Special Investigation Unit be included in the probe. - Sapa.

With acknowledgement to Sapa and News24.