Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-03 Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

Come Clean, Opposition Tells Mbeki



The Star

Date 2003-09-03


Christelle Terreblanche

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"Bully boy" Essop Pahad, the minister in the Presidency, has become the centre of the arms deal saga.

Two opposition parties have attacked his style of protesting the government's innocence.

In statements during the new parliamentary session's first sitting yesterday, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon and his United Democratic Movement counterpart Bantu Holomisa led the charge, urging President Thabo Mbeki to clarify conflicting statements.

Leon said SA was tired of Pahad's "bully-boy tactics" in demanding that ANC members and parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) not criticise the president and the executive.

He was quoting from a weekend article by former Scopa member Andrew Feinstein which alleged that Pahad continued "to play the bad cop ... by making hysterical charges about media conspiracies and the opposition instead of dealing with the issues (around the multibillion-rand arms deal and accusations of corruption)".

Pahad was alleged to have told Scopa at the time of Feinstein's resignation: "Who do you think you are, to criticise the executive and the president?"

Leon said this "is how minister Pahad began to undermine the investigation into the arms deal and to strong-arm parliament".

"That is how his party began to cover up evidence of wrongdoing."

He said it was time for parliament "to stand up to this blustering and bullying, and to open a nonpartisan, comprehensive inquiry into the arms deal".

Holomisa said: "The Ministry of Justice says they have evidence that (Deputy President Jacob) Zuma is corrupt, while ... Pahad is continuously attacking the head of prosecution, the opposition parties and the media.

"Are we perhaps being blamed for observing that the emperor is naked, as has been published by the Ministry of Justice itself?" he asked.

"We urge the president to clarify this confusion. It is quite simply the confusion of the century."

The UDM leader also wanted to know "for how long can we have a person occupying the office of the deputy president when structures from the same government have publicly stated that they have evidence that he is corrupt?

"Ironically, we hear ruling- party spokespersons proclaiming that Zuma has been 'exonerated'," Holomisa said.

Responding, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin remarked on Leon's leaving the National Assembly after his statement.

"It is a pity that the opposition should feel bullied by Mr Pahad, such a gentle man," he said.

"I think the government is quite clear on its position. At all times we have allowed due processes to take place in regard to the arms deal and will continue to do so."

Erwin added that the problem with the DA was that it had no respect for any of the structures set up by the constitution.

With acknowledgements to Christelle Terreblanche and The Star.