Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-03-29 Reporter: Own Correspondent Editor:

Reluctant Yengeni Protests Innocence

Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-03-29
Reporter Own Correspondent
Web Link

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 deal. 

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.