Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2004-10-22 Reporter: Opinion Reporter

Thetard's Surprise



The Natal Witness

Date 2004-10-22


Opinion Reporter

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In the Shaik trial, the Durban High Court has been told that Thomson-CSF executive director Alain Thetard has expressed surprise that irregularities in the South African arms deal should have caused a major fuss, bribery being a "normal practice" in France. It is a comment which might be dismissed as an idle quip were it not so grotesquely true.

France does indeed have a scandalous record for bribery and embezzlement involving the government and multinational corporations, with allegations reaching (in the case of Francois Mitterand) as high as the presidency. The most notorious instance, perhaps, was the ELF case, the government and corporation conspiring to bribe an African president and plunder African resources, but there have been others, and the Thomson name is associated with dubious dealings elsewhere than in South Africa.

With much of the money going not only into private pockets but into party political coffers, there seems to be a virtually symbiotic relationship between French governments and multinational corporations that keeps both the bribes and the business flowing, and the arms business is particularly susceptible to this kind of dubious dealing.

Perhaps Thetard thought that his South African contacts would be more adept at the game, or perhaps the idea that an African state might adopt a more ethical stance is new to him. He should not have been surprised, however: Europeans have known for generations that there is always something new coming out of Africa.

With acknowledgement to The Natal Witness.