Several Arrests to Follow Yengeni's
|Reporter||Jonny Steinberg, Wyndham Hartley|
ANC chief whip resigns but insists he is innocent and will prove this in court ARMS deal investigators have every intention of arresting several other high-profile figures for criminal wrongdoing, a source close to the investigation said yesterday.
This came on the day that Tony Yengeni bowed to pressure and resigned as African National Congress (ANC) chief whip in Parliament, citing concern over the effect his corruption charge will have on his family and the ANC.
Yengeni's arrest and court appearance on corruption, fraud and perjury charges caused a political furore on Wednesday with the ANC's political committee meeting twice on the day. There was considerable speculation that Yengeni would be forced to resign amid a flurry of opposition calls for him to stand down.
Asked whether the arrest of Yengeni on Wednesday was just the beginning, the source close to the investigation replied: "If you are asking whether we intend to arrest half the cabinet, the answer is no. But if you are asking whether Yengeni is to be a single scapegoat, the answer is also no.
"There are a range of other high-profile figures who will not be left untouched the intention is certainly to get several criminal convictions."
Asked who these high-profile figures were, the source said: "Certain of the names that are being bandied about in the papers are spot-on." Asked whether he was referring to former defence minister Joe Modise, trade and industry department director Vanan Pillay and arms procurement committee chairman Chippy Shaik, the source said "yes".
While justice officials stressed yesterday that there was no evidence that Yengeni had attempted to corrupt the primary arms contracting process, it is understood that investigators have not ruled out the possibility that efforts were made by others to corrupt the primary process.
At a news conference in Cape Town yesterday Yengeni still insisted that he was innocent and would prove this in court. He said he would stay on as an MP and conceded, in reply to a question, that his salary "will take a dive" as he moved from chief whip to the back benches. He is likely to lose more than R100000 a year in salary and benefits.
Yengeni avoided any suggestion he had been asked to step down by the ANC's political committee. He said he had not attended Wednesday's meetings of the committee. Nosiviwe MapisaNqakula, the deputy chairwoman of the committee, said it had made no recommendation as this was beyond its mandate. She dismissed reports that the committee had asked Yengeni to resign.
Yengeni said he still dismissed the charges against him "with the contempt they deserve" and insisted that they were part of a "witchhunt".
The ANC's national working committee will on Monday discuss a possible successor to Yengeni. It could be the current deputy Geoff Doidge, who will act as chief whip in the interim.
All opposition parties yesterday welcomed Yengeni's resignation. They were joined by the ANC's alliance partner, Cosatu, which said: "We cannot afford to have anyone remain in a position of political leadership who is tainted with corruption, no matter how worthy his past. As a country we must show zero tolerance for corruption".
Sapa reports that former defence minister Joe Modise was interviewed by forensic investigators on Tuesday, the office of the auditor-general said yesterday. The session took the form of an interview rather than a formal interrogation. Modise had a lawyer and advocate present.
With acknowledgements to Jonny Steinberg, Wyndham Hartley and Business Day.