ANC Repeats Heath Arms Probe Rebuff
JOHANNESBURG The African National Congress yesterday reiterated that it would oppose the appointment of the special investigating unit (SIU) head, Judge Willem Heath, to probe the R43billion arms deal. ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama told reporters at the four-day ANC national executive committee meeting in Kempton Park here that the party was disturbed by Heath's relations with other political parties.
He said the issue was not discussed at the lekgotla, but that the ANC "remained highly concerned because Heath has been hobnobbing with other political parties". He said Heath had received the government's unqualified support when he was appointed head of the SIU.
"The trust and confidence given to him was put to the test. He sees himself not as accountable to government," Ngonyama said. This was in line with a statement Ngonyama made during a radio discussion earlier this week: "The view of the ANC is that we don't want Heath to be part of this probe. He has used the information he has obtained to lambaste the government and blackmail the government by saying that unless you put me to work, there is a cover up."
Justice Minister Penuell Maduna will today announce his recommendations to President Thabo Mbeki regarding a request for a presidential proclamation to enable the unit to investigate the allegations. The government has been under mounting pressure to include the SIU in the investigations and parliament has named the Heath unit as one of the four agencies that should conduct the probe.
Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille handed documents relating to the alleged corruption to the Heath unit in November 1999. In October last year the unit formally applied for a proclamation. De Lille also passed on information pertaining to ANC politicians who allegedly received kickbacks from foreign arms consortiums. The unit's bid for involvement was bolstered by Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee a month later, when it recommended that Heath and several other agencies be involved in a multi-sectoral probe. *Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane yesterday said the government should honour Parliament's recommendation to implement a high-level investigation into the arms deal without delay.
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. "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."
Democratic Alliance spokeswoman Raenette Taljaard yesterday said 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.
With acknowledgement to Sapa and Daily Dispatch.