No Official Threat to Arms Info - Heath Unit
Cape Town (Sapa) - Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee (Scopa) is expected to decide on Monday whether Deputy President Jacob Zuma will be "invited" to explain his criticism of the committee's decisions regarding the country's controversial R43 billion arms deal.
"The committee will look at how to respond [to the Deputy President's letter]," Scopa chairman Gavin Woods told Sapa on Sunday.
He said the committee would accept a request from the Speaker of Parliament Frene Ginwala to address its members during the course of the open plenary meeting in parliament. She was expected to give her position on a resolution adopted by the national assembly on November 2.
In the resolution the committee recommended a meeting of at least four agencies to discuss a possible multi-pronged investigation into the arms deal. At that subsequent meeting it called for the probe to be undertaken by the Heath apecial investigating unit, the public protector, the auditor-general and the investigating directorate of serious economic offences.
However, in a televised broadcast last week President Thabo Mbeki refused to sign a proclamation to include Heath in the arms investigation, resulting in a furore.
ANC members of the committee believe that the resolution and subsequent Scopa meeting in Pretoria on November 13 with the four agencies, had not singled out any agency for inclusion. However, Woods (of the Inkatha Freedom Party) insists that the inclusion of Heath was backed by all parties in the committee.
In a strongly-worded letter dated January 19 and addressed to Woods, Zuma accused the committee of seriously misdirecting itself and arriving at decisions on the arms deal that were not substantiated by any facts. The criticism has raised questions about the accountability of the executive to parliament.
Woods said at a special Scopa meeting last week that Zuma's letter reflected strongly on the work of the committee and the auditor-general, and should be taken very seriously. The letter insinuated that the committee had been "disrespectful of the executive and had offended foreign governments", he said.
Woods hoped that the committee would at Monday's meeting decide when a working group set up to look at the different interpretations within the committee of the resolution should meet. Unfortunately, a management committee set up on Wednesday to outline the working group's agenda had not been able to meet ahead of Monday's indaba. He hoped that these issues would be finalised at the plenary meeting.
Woods added, however, that most of the morning session would be taken up considering outstanding reports from Scopa's deliberations in 2000.
Scopa is also expected to discuss when to call in four Cabinet ministers - Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin and Public Enterprises Minister Jeff Radebe - to explain their criticisms of the committee's decisions.
Woods told MPs on Wednesday that the comments went beyond criticism of the committee and affected parliament itself.
The full-day meeting was expected to start at 9am.
With acknowledgement to Sapa and WOZA