ANC Whip "Tried to Block Graft Probe"
|Publication||Mail & Guardian|
Johannesburg - AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) chief whip Tony Yengeni has pushed for a halt in the corruption probe into South Africa's multi-billion rand arms purchase deal, government sources have claimed in a news report.
In response, spokesmen for the ruling ANC denied there had been any attempt to stop the "super" probe, being undertaken by four of the country's top investigation and prosecution authorities with a fifth due to join in. The standing committee on public accounts ordered the unprecedented probe after claims of irregularities in the R43bn arms deal concluded late last year.
The Sunday Times reported that ANC and other MPs and officials had said on condition of anonymity that Yengeni had tried to persuade ANC members of the parliamentary committee behind the probe to squash the investigation.
The newspaper reported that Yengeni and other ANC officials had said that the probe was not in the interests of the party and the government. Similar claims were made to the media two weeks ago about Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad, who dismissed the allegations as "a litany of lies".
Yengeni, a former chairman of parliament's joint committee on defence, also reportedly refused to authorise travel expenses for committee members who had to travel to Pretoria to meet the investigators. He reversed his decision after intervention by Deputy President Jacob Zuma. ANC official Smuts Ngonyama said the claims against Yengeni was "just a rumour". Yengeni's spokesman Dennis Cruywagen said that there was "no attempt on the part of anybody to stop the investigation".
Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota told SABC public television that he was not aware of any of ANC members trying to block the probe. He said the government was "satisfied" that the deal was handled correctly. However, should any trangressors be uncovered, they would face the law, he said.
The probe was also recommended by Auditor General Shauket Fakie. The committee recommended the probe after concern that the state had misled the country about the cost of the arms - initially priced at R29.9bn - that counter-trade agreements were questionable and that there was "influence" around the choice of certain contractors.
On the shopping list are corvettes, Gripen fighter jets, Hawk fighter trainers, helicopters and submarines from French, German, British and Italian companies. - AFP
With acknowledgement to the Mail & Guardian.