Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2002-07-26 Reporter: Terry CrawfordBrowne Editor:

Arms Deal Shows Up Government Inexperience


Publication  Business Day
Date 2002-07-26
Reporter Terry Crawford-Browne
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Dear Sir,I COMMEND John KaneBerman (Too many unanswered questions on arms deal, July 24) for his focus on the failure of public watchdogs to call the executive to account, and I want to reassure him that Economists Allied for Arms Reduction SA have no intention of allowing the issue to be forgotten?

We filed papers in the Cape High Court on July 5 2002 and the government gave notice on July 17 that it would contest our application, and we await its answering affidavits. We contend that the arms deal is strategically, economically and financially irrational, and therefore constitutionally unlawful.

The arms deal is predicated on the nonsense that the R30bn expenditure on armaments would generate R110bn in offsets to create 64165 jobs.

The cabinet and the minister of finance were warned about foreign exchange and other risks, but recklessly went ahead anyway with payment commitments until 2021. A recent survey found that 62% of African National Congress voters wanted the arms deal cancelled, 19% wanted it cut and only 12% supported the deal.

Our government was inexperienced and gullible. Even more culpable are the European monarchs, presidents and prime ministers who promoted the arms deal and offsets as a "Marshall Plan for South Africa".

The deal was that the Germans and French would get the warship contracts, and the British and Swedes would get the warplane contracts. Whatever the shortcomings of the Parliament's standing committee on public accounts and other inquiries, we have in SA proceeded further than other European countries in exposing some of the machinations of the armaments industry.

That said, the National Conventional Arms Control Bill, currently before Parliament, provides for total prohibition on disclosure of any information relating to armaments without the permission of a competent authority. This throwback to the apartheid era makes a mockery of President Thabo Mbeki's commitment to democracy and good governance.

With acknowledgements to Terry Crawford-Browne and Business Day.