Publication: City Press Issued: Date: 2001-11-11 Reporter: Jimmy Seepe

Arms Report May Sink Political Leaders



City Press

Date 2001-11-11


Jimmy Seepe, Political Editor

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The report of the year-long investigation into SA's multi-billion arms deal, due for release on Wednesday, has already triggered a political fight as opposition party leaders call on President Thabo Mbeki to apologise for earlier claiming there was no substance to the allegations of wrongdoing.

The report could once again cast the spotlight on certain high-ranking individuals on whether they benefited directly from the deal.

Leaders of opposition political parties have already sounded a warning that they don't expect the report to single out a few individuals as sacrificial lambs.

The first shots were fired this week by Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) MP Patricia de Lille and United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa.

Political party leaders expect former defence minister Joe Modise to rank prominently on the list of key players who should come under scrutiny from the prosecution authorities if the probe is to be thorough.

Those who have come under public suspicion include the defence department's head of acquisitions, Chippy Shaik, the former manager of the corvette programme, Frits Nortjé, and corvette project officer Johnny Kamerman, who has since been promoted to rear-admiral.

The allegations against them were made in Pretoria by the managing director of Communications Computer Intelligence Integration Systems (CCII), RichardYoung, the first witness outside the government to testify in the public hearings into the arms deal.

Speaking in Cape Town on Friday, De Lille called on Mbeki to apologise for denying there were irregularities in the arms deal even before the investigation started.

She said she hoped the 250-page arms-deal report would expose everyone involved in the scandal.

Holomisa supported her and said Mbeki should have long apologised to the public and not waited for this moment. Holomisa said a number of individuals needed to fully account to the public about the arms deal. Modise, in particular, still needed to explain why he disregarded a recommendation to the government to enter into a contract with an Italian company and instead opted for the British Aerospace company.

Sapa reported De Lille as saying ``What do we say now? There's prima facie evidence. The investigation is going on. People have been charged. In terms of leadership, (we're) looking for the type of decisive leadership that can say `Sorry, we made a mistake', and I'm sure South Africans, with our good hearts and understanding and reasonableness, will accept that,'' she said.

But defence ministry spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi yesterday said De Lille and Holomisa were trying to score cheap political points before even knowing the outcome of the investigation.

Mkhwanazi said De Lille should be the last person to comment since she had claimed to have information about the arms deal but failed to help the investigators.

De Lille therefore had no moral claim to make and could claim no moral victory, Mkhwanazi said.

With acknowledgements to Jimmy Seepe and City Press.