Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2003-09-05 Reporter: Staff Reporter

Leon Decries 'The Real Arms Scandal'



The Star

Date 2003-09-05


Staff Reporter

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The real scandal behind the arms scandal is the purchase of expensive equipment and armaments for a diminished defence force, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon has told a party fundraiser.

Speaking to about 500 people at the Wanderers club in Johannesburg last night, Leon said: "The scandal goes far beyond personalities.

"How is it we can afford R22,6-billion for air force jets and navy corvettes when our defence policy rests on the power of a land army?

"How is it that we can spend almost R16-billion on Gripen fighter aircraft when there are only 10 fighter pilots in the defence force?"

He asked how it was possible for R53-billion to be spent on arms when the SANDF did not have enough money to replenish ammunition or service military vehicles.

"How is it that we can equip our army with hi-tech battle gear when no more than 20% of its vehicles can be mobilised?

"How can we rely on expensive weaponry when, of 35 000 soldiers, only 2 500 are prepared to be put into the field and 20 000 are sick?

"The constitution promises us personal safety, yet our government has diverted R1-billion from the battleground of fighting crime in South Africa into the political swamp of internecine conflicts around Africa.

"Helping our fellow Africans is important, but charity must begin at home."

He blamed government interference for the mess in rugby and other sports.

"Seven or eight years ago we were at or near the top in rugby, cricket and soccer. Today many of our teams have fallen into the ranks of the mediocre."

With acknowledgements to the staff reporter and The Star.