Publication: The Helen Suzman Foundation Issued: Date: March 2001 Reporter: Patrick Laurence Editor:

Arms Deal Inquiry

 

Publication  The Helen Suzman Foundation
Date March 2001
Reporter Patrick Laurence
Web Link www.hsf.org.za

 

Joe Modise, Tony Yengeni and brothers Shamin and Shabir Shaik are among those alleged to have benefited from the arms deal.

Joe Modise is a central figure in the R43.8bn arms deal. Though the agreement was only signed in December 1999, nearly six months after his retirement from the political arena, he was the minister of defence during a crucial phase of the negotiations. Modise is named as an alleged beneficiary in the purported skullduggery associated with the negotiations in a document submitted to Scopa for investigation by Terry Crawford-Browne, chairman of the South African chapter of Economists Allied for Arms Reduction.

He is alleged to have been paid R10m for putting his signature to a deal under which South Africa agreed to buy German submarines only days before his retirement from the ministry. Modise is also identified as the South African signatory to the submarine deal in a written briefing submitted to Patricia de Lille in late 1999. The briefing notes that British and Spanish companies were originally the preferred bidders but were ousted at the eleventh hour, a change that it labels "suspicious".

Today Modise is chairman of two companies: Labat, a black empowerment company with several ANC "aristocrats" on its board, and Conlog, a subsidiary of LogTek Holdings which, in turn, has links with African Defence Systems (ADS), one of the beneficiaries of the arms deal. A major shareholder in ADS is the French military company Thompson CSF, which was contracted to supply equipment to the SA Navy's corvettes. Noseweek has alleged that Modise bought his shares in Conlog through a multimillion rand interest free loan from Germany. Modise, who was commander of the ANC armmy,Umkhonto we Sizwe, dismisses the reports as "lies and gossip". He may sue unnamed publications, he says, and has been advised by his lawyer not to respond to the charges.

Shamin 'Chippy' Shaik and Shabir Shaik are brothers from a Durban family that has boasted of its links to ANC leaders. They figure prominently in documents submitted to Scopa. Shamin is head of the armaments procurements committee and before that worked in the defence department's policy division, where he was involved in the defence review. Shabir is a director of companies that stand to gain from the arms deal - African Defence Systems, Nkobi Holdings (named after Thomas Nkobi, a former treasurer-general of the ANC), which in turn has a share in Thompson-CSF's South African subsidiary.

The Shaik link may be what the auditor general referred to as a "potential conflict of interest" and expressed reservations about "aspects of the independence, fairness and impartiality" of the arms procurement process. (A third Shaik brother, Mo, serves as South Africa's ambassador to Algeria, a major purchaser of SA-manufactured weapons).

Shamin Shaik defends himself against accusations of nepotism by citing his decision to recuse himself from "all decisions on South African involvement". A senior member of the ANC who is concerned about the way in which the arms deal has been negotiated is unimpressed. For Shaik to have recused himself is no guarantee against corrupt nepotism. The deal could have been set up long before, he observes.

Shabir Shaik offers two ripostes to suspicions that he benefited unfairly from the arms deal. "I believe in God," he is quoted as saying in the Mail & Guardian, reasoning that his religious convictions prohibit him from participating in wrongdoing. His second defence is that his
brother's strategic position in the arms procurement process was a
handicap, not an advantage. "If I could rely on my brother sending me anything my way that I wanted, why do I only have a deal for R2.6bn?"

Tony Yengeni, ANC chief whip, is identified as another alleged beneficiary in the written briefing sent to De Lille and in Crawford-Browne's document submitted to Scopa for investigation.

The briefing charges that Yegeni financed the purchase of a Mercedes 4x4 ML 320 Auto with money channelled to him from a successful international arms manufacturer. Crawford-Browne asked Scopa to investigate reports that Yengeni, a former chairmen of the parliamentary defence committee, was one of " number of South African politicians and officials" who benefited from a 1m "success fee" paid by a successful British armaments supplier.

A senior ANC spokesperson repudiates the reports. He notes that as chief whip Yengeni earns more than the leader of the opposition, Tony Leon. That, plus his wife's position as a senior official at defence parastatal Denel, means he can afford to buy the luxury car. However, the vehicle attracts snide remarks in Parliament's corridors from his political opponents, who see it a mockery of his professed allegiance to communism.

With acknowledgement to the Patrick Laurence and The Helen Suzman Foundation.