Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2003-09-10 Reporter: Joseph Aranes

De Lille is Still Stirring Up the Fraud Cup



Cape Argus

Date 2003-09-10


Joseph Aranes

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Most politicians in her position would be gloating, but not Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

Three years after standing up in parliament and stating that senior government officials and politicians had been fraudulently enriching themselves from the country's efforts to restock and upgrade its military hardware, she has been vindicated.

But De Lille is not going around saying: "I told you so." Instead she is asking more probing questions.

She wants to know why - more than a year after she handed her "arms deal dossier" to the then Heath Unit, headed by judge Willem Heath - President Thabo Mbeki addressed the nation and said there was no prima facie evidence against anyone in government.

"This, in spite of the justice minister's three advocates, who initially probed the allegations, reporting different findings (to what Mbeki announced)."

De Lille said she wanted to know why the African National Congress had ridiculed and insulted her when she first brought her concerns to the public's attention.

She wants to know why Deputy President Jacob Zuma is not being prosecuted in court like other ANC members Tony Yengeni and Winnie Madikezela-Mandela.

"Why is Zuma not forced to stand down from his duties until the court decides his innocence or guilt?

"Does the ANC believe in selective justice?

"I believe in the rule of law and the country's constitution and that everybody, including Zuma and the president, is equal before the law.

"Now that there is allegedly prima facie evidence against Zuma, the national prosecuting authority decides the case is not strong enough to secure a prosecution.

"How many times in the past decade has the Constitutional Court ruled against the government and how have they reacted?

"The ruling party's actions have often violated parliament and it is a threat to our country's young democracy.

"They have undermined the main pillar of our democracy, the Chapter 9 institutions, by cutting their budgets so they can't be effective.

"And if they are effective, the government shuts them down, like they did with the Heath Unit. Now they are threatening to do the same to the Scorpions.

"That's why there is a need for the Independent Democrats in the country."

Although the party was launched in June, a few months after De Lille used the "floor crossing" legislation to resign from the Pan Africanist Congress and keep her seat in the National Assembly, a series of regional launches are being planned for the next few weeks.

The Western Cape launch takes place in Pinelands on Saturday.

De Lille said recent opinion polls had shown that the Independent Democrats had enough national support to become the official opposition in the country and would have a strong showing at provincial level.

"People have lost faith in parliament and in opposition parties.

"The ANC's backbenchers, with the exception of one or two MPs, are too scared to take on the executive for fear of losing their place on the party's proportional representative list," she said.

"Opposition parties have failed the country and are too predictable. There is not enough constructive engagement.

"They rejoice at the ANC's failings and their own programmes are drafted to be anti everything the ANC and the government put forward."

She said her party fully support the concept of transformation "as long as it is clearly defined and is not just a case of blacks taking over from whites".

"As an opposition party, you have to be positive about the country.

"The government has some good policies and their intentions are good but the implementation is often bad.

"I must be honest and say that I can't say they have not delivered, but they have been slow.

"Our task is to encourage them to do better."

But De Lille also warned the government that it could not blame all its problems on apartheid.

She said all parties had democratically adopted the country's constitution and set high standards for governance in the country.

"But the government is so busy blaming everybody else for the problems that they forget who is in power.

"They can't be selective and we need to measure them against their own standards and that of the constitution."

And it is with this claim to the moral high ground that De Lille is taking her party into next year's general elections.

She believes in her rallying call, "Back to basics", which is driven by issues that are important to people across the board.

De Lille said her party had identified seven such issues - the economy, justice and security, health and, particularly, HIV and Aids, education, social welfare, women and child abuse and the environment.

"But I believe policies can't just be drafted without the input of those who it ultimately affects.

"We have invited all like-minded South Africans to submit their views on what they believe must be done to make the country great.

"Their views will be taken into account as we draft the party's different policies," she said.

With acknowledgements to Joseph Aranes and the Cape Argus.