Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-22 Reporter: Editor:

Scopa to Discuss Arms Probe on Wednesday

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-22
Editor Sapa
Web Link

Cape Town - Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee (Scopa) which met briefly behind closed doors in Constantia on Monday, has postponed its discussion on the R43 billion arms deal probe until Wednesday.

Constitutional questions - particularly whether the executive is within its rights to criticise Parliament's work - will also be on the agenda, Scopa chairman Dr Gavin Woods (IFP) said.

He was speaking at a conference centre in the Cape Town suburb after the committee abandoned its four-day workshop to discuss the committee's formal business for the year. It will now take place at a later date.

However, the committee will meet in parliament on Wednesday to specifically discuss the arms probe. Proceedings will be open to the public and media, he said.

The decision follows a request from African National Congress MPs on the committee, who spent most of Monday behind closed doors thrashing out their response to President Thabo Mbeki's decision to exclude Judge Willem Heath's anti-corruption unit from the probe.

Woods told reporters it was decided to postpone the meeting after lengthy discussions between representatives of different political parties.

He expressed disappointment that the issue had not been dealt with on Monday. However, the committee had decided it could wait for two more days.

Woods said MPs had not yet resolved "some difference of opinion" on the interpretation of the committee's report to parliament adopted by the National Assembly in November.

This would hopefully be done on Wednesday.

The disagreement revolves around whether the committee's resolution recommended that the Heath unit be included in the probe.

The ANC claims the report did not single out any agency, but Woods disagrees.

He again insisted on Monday that all political parties represented on the committee, including the ANC, had wanted Heath's involvement.

"There is no doubt that party divisions have been accentuated. The parties appear to be seeing things in different ways.

"We trust that on Wednesday we will get this issue, that has traumatised the committee, behind us," Woods said.

ANC spokesperson Andrew Feinstein said there had been a lot of confusion about the agenda of Monday's meeting. His party wanted an extensive and exhaustive meeting about the probe.

There was a "very deep commitment" from every member of the committee to move the probe forward, he said.

Wednesday's meeting would allow every member of the committee access to all the information and for Scopa to put forward a united stance on the multi-agency probe.

"I'm confident that the outcome of the meeting will be good for the country ... and that must be a full and thorough investigation," Feinstein said.

Democratic Alliance public accounts spokesperson Raenette Taljaard said the committee would also decide whether to call Deputy President Jacob Zuma to appear before it following his attack on Woods and the committee.

In a stinging letter dated 19 January, Zuma accused the committee of seriously misdirecting itself and arriving at decisions that were not substantiated by any facts. Sapa

With acknowledgment to Sapa and News24.