Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2003-09-02 Reporter: Tony Leon

Mbeki Should Set a Precedent, Tell Zuma to Step Down - DA



Cape Times

Date 2003-09-02


Tony Leon

Web Link


Joel Netshitenze's defence of the arms deal (August 28) is so misleading that it must be taken apart completely, point by point.

Netshitenze says: The arms deal is only opposed by those who oppose armies and arms as a matter of principle and that the need to re-equip our Defence Force was agreed upon by most parties in parliament.

Fact: There were opponents of arms purchases even in the ranks of the ANC and its allies - and not just among pacifists.

We in what was then the Democratic Party made our support for re-equipping the Defence Force conditional on the ability of South Africa to afford new arms purchases and the absence of any corruption. Those two conditions have been violated.

Netshitenze says: The inter-ministerial structure that processed this matter, chaired by the then deputy president Thabo Mbeki, sought to be as rigorous as possible and to ensure the best principles of procurement - technical, security, strategic and otherwise - were observed in reaching the final decision.

Fact: Netshitenze neglects to mention that the cabinet subcommittee, chaired by then deputy president Mbeki, also made product risk a critical factor in its decisions. Certain companies were subject to a risk premium that placed them out of contention, while preferred companies allegedly ducked this obstacle. There were also dubious interventions by former defence minister Joe Modise, Chippy Shaik and others.

Netshitenze says: The three investigation units - the public protector, the auditor-general and the national directorate of public prosecutions - approved the work of the cabinet subcommittee.

Fact: Each of these units noted grave problems with the arms deal. But because they had to work separately and on different aspects of the deal, they failed to offer concrete recommendations. The only unit that could examine the deal as a whole, and cancel contracts, was the Heath Special Investigating Unit. It was specifically excluded by the presidency.

Netshitenze says: The conduct of the Mbeki subcommittee was approved by the various parliamentary committees and parliament on examining the investigators' report.

Fact: The Joint Investigating Team (JIT) report on the arms deal was never examined in its entirety by parliament. Each of six parliamentary committees looked only at specific sections - a severe dilution of the process. Before these inquiries, the ANC leadership and the executive interfered in the work of the committees, notably Scopa.

Netshitenze says: There has of course been much to-ing and fro-ing on drafts of drafts of the report, and each time a seemingly exciting story about such issues comes to the fore, it is as quickly repudiated.

Fact: No-one can dispute the fact that there are differences between the drafts of the auditor-general's reports to parliament. The question that must be answered is whether, and to what extent, the executive intervened to delete sections of the report.

Netshitenze says: The matters requiring criminal investigation related to some secondary contracts, entered into between the primary contractors and their chosen suppliers, with minimal government involvement.

Fact: The distinction between primary contractors and sub-contractors is simply false in the case of ADS, the company at the centre of allegations of wrongdoing. The JIT report indicates clearly in at least five places that the government intervened to give ADS the effective status of a primary contractor.

Netshitenze says: There was no possibility of influence by anyone on the decisions taken by the government.

Fact: The fact that the Scorpions have built prima facie cases against Schabir Shaik and Deputy President Jacob Zuma proves that not only is there a possibility of influence, but a probability.

Netshitenze says: Government should not set a precedent whereby an allegation against senior leaders leads to their resignation.

Fact: The point is not whether the allegations against Zuma have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The point is that he cannot possibly fulfil his constitutional duties while there is a prima facie case of corruption against him.

Section 96 (2) (b) of the Constitution indicates clearly that members of the cabinet may not expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests.

It is clear - by virtue of the fact that the prima facie case exists - that Zuma exposed himself to the risk of a conflict of interest. Government officials should not be held hostage to frivolous allegations. But the prima facie case against Zuma is severe.

The president should ask the deputy president to step down, and thereby set an example of good governance and capable leadership.

Leon is leader of the Democratic Alliance.

With acknowledgements to Tony Leon and the Cape Times.