Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-01-30 Reporter: Editor: AFP

Stench of Corruption Lingers as MP Axed

Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-01-30
Editor AFP
Web Link

THE stench of corruption surrounding the government’s R43bn arms deal has deepened with the axing of a leading African National Congress (ANC) MP from a key party post after he voiced concern about alleged kickbacks for top ANC officials and insisted on a probe.

Andrew Feinstein, who was vociferous in questioning the tender procedures and clashes of interest in the deal, says his future "looks uncertain" after he was replaced as ANC spokesman on the parliamentary public accounts committee.

Feinstein was replaced by ANC deputy chief whip Jeff Doidge.

The decision to launch an investigation followed charges of high-level corruption among ANC politicians in awarding the contracts late in 1999.

President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Jacob Zuma have rebuked the committee for calling into an investigation into the deal. The ANC's handling of the affair has been severely criticised, with commentators saying Mbeki is inviting speculation of a cover-up in his opposition to aspects of the probe. Feinstein initially enjoyed the backing of his ANC colleagues on the committee when he pushed for a probe and for the country's top anti-corruption watchdog, the Heath Special Investigations Unit, to be part of the enquiry.

But their support evaporated when Mbeki publicly maligned the head of the unit, Judge Willem Heath, and said the committee was "wrong" in assuming there were grounds for an investigation.

Mbeki froze the unit out of the investigation and the government subsequently announced that it would be disbanded.

After the president's attack on Heath, the ANC component of the public accounts committee backtracked, saying they never specifically asked for the renowned judge's involvement.

Feinstein himself tried to toe a careful line, on the one hand saying the committee should deliberate what their real intention had been regarding Heath, on the other maintaining that there was a need for an investigation.

But within days insiders described him as a "very lonely" man.

Sean Jacobs from the Institute for Democracy in South Africa said Feinstein was "an excellent member of the committee but the ANC has been embarrassed by events. He was supposed to protect party interests, but he did not do that. The ANC has handled this badly from the start." - AFP

With acknowledgement to AFP and Daily Mail and Guardian.