Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2004-03-05 Reporter: Anthea Jonathan

ANC Welcomes Arms Ruling




Date 2004-03-05


Anthea Jonathan

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Cape Town - The African National Congress has welcomed the dismissal by the Cape High Court of the application to have the strategic arms procurement programme scrapped.

Economists Allied for Arms Reduction (Ecaar-SA) headed by Terry Crawford-Browne on Thursday lost its application to stop the programme to buy corvettes and fighter aircraft.

ANC national spokesperson Smuts Ngomyama said in a statement that contrary to claims by Crawford-Browne "the ANC-led government was acting within its constitutional and legal obligation to ensure the defence force is adequately equipped".

"The arms deal was informed by a lengthy and comprehensive assessment of the country's defence needs, which had the support of almost all parties in parliament," he said.

"Government went to great lengths to balance the cost of the arms procurement against the other pressing demands on the country's resources and took a number of steps to minimize the cost. Because of the approach taken by the government, the equipment was secured at very favourable rates," he said.

"The arms procurement process was probably the most transparent, thoroughly researched and effectively managed major procurement in this country's history.

"While opposition parties continue to make claims of corruption, they have yet to produce compelling evidence to this effect. The investigation conducted into the matter by the Auditor-General, Public Protector and National Director of Public Prosecutions found no evidence of corruption relating to the selection of primary contractors by government.

"Findings that other individuals may have attempted to obtain "undue benefit" particularly in the awarding of the sub-contracts by the primary suppliers - in which government was not involved - were correctly referred to the Scorpions for investigation. The normal legal process must take its course."

In the Ecaar-SA case it was argued that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had failed to apply his mind before signing foreign loan agreements on the arms deal. This was rejected by the court.

With acknowledgements to Anthea Jonathan and News24.