Reluctant Yengeni Protests Innocence
|Publication||Mail & Guardian|
THE ANC says allegations that its Chief Whip,
Tony Yengeni, accepted a luxury vehicle as a kickback in the government’s
multi-million rand arms deal are the result of delays in the arms probe
“creating a field day for speculative mischief-makers.”
Yengeni, for his part, has protested his
innocence in a special address to a hushed National Assembly, saying reports
that he was given a luxury 4x4 vehicle by a company linked to the R43bn arms
deal were untrue."The motor vehicle has been legitimately purchased by
myself," he said, adding that he was "reluctantly responding" to
the allegations."The acquisition of the vehicle did not in any way
whatsoever influence the award ... of any contract in the arms procurement which
is under investigation," he said.
The arms deal, under which South Africa will buy
fighter aircraft, submarines, helicopters and naval patrol boats from Swedish,
British, German, Italian and French manufacturers, is the subject of an
investigation involving three government agencies.
Parliament called for the probe after the auditor
general expressed concerns about the tender process, and after many months of
speculation of corruption in the awarding of the contracts.The three agencies
this week confirmed that they are also probing the matter of Yengeni's car.
DaimlerChrysler South Africa (DASA) confirmed
that Yengeni's Mercedes-Benz, valued at R359 000, was bought by a senior staff
member and registered in Yengeni's name three days later. DASA was incorporated
into the multi-national European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS), which was
awarded a R220m sub-contract to supply naval tracking radar as part of the arms
Yengeni chaired parliament's defence committee
before he became the ruling African National Congress' chief whip in 1999. In
January, he moved to snap parliament's watchdog public accounts committee into
line after a stand-off between President Thabo Mbeki and the committee over its
call for the Heath Special Investigations Unit - the country's premier
anti-corruption unit - to be part of the probe.
Mbeki has repeatedly said that there was no proof
of wrongdoing in the making of the arms deal and dismissed allegations of graft
as an attempt to discredit the government.
This week Justice Minister Penuell Maduna said
the government "won't protect" Yengeni if proof of any wrongdoing on
his part was found.
With acknowledgement to the Daily Mail and Guardian.