Publication: The Mercury Issued: Date: 2005-06-03 Reporter: Jonathan Ancer

Arms Deal Now Likely to be Reviewed after Being Tainted by Shaik Trial



The Mercury

Date 2005-06-03


Jonathan Ancer

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Along with Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the arms deal was another "elephant" that sat in court during the Schabir Shaik trial.

Institute for Democracy in South Africa's Judith February said that while the trial was not directly about the multibillion-rand deal, she said enough information had came out of it to spark a parliamentary review.

"There have been several occasions where the arms deal has raised its head over the years and I think it's time for parliament to now relook at those unanswered questions," she said.

The arms deal was concluded in 1999 to equip the country's armed forces with warplanes, warships and submarines, and create 65 000 jobs in spin-offs.

But soon concerns surfaced over the involvement of top ANC members who allegedly tried to land lucrative contracts.

In 2001, after a report from the auditor-general, the then national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, said that while there had been problems during the procurement process, the arms deal itself remained untainted.

But now with the conviction of Shaik, February said parliament should revisit the deal.

"There were different instances where parliament was called to intervene. The Shaik trial was not exclusively about the issue but Judge Hilary Squires raised pertinent points and parliament should look at it again," she said.

She added, though, that the arms deal would be brought under the microscope more directly when businessman Richard Young went to court.

Young is suing the government for damages after losing out on one of the lucrative contracts. He argued that the tender procedure had been handled irregularly.

"The question of whether there was corruption in the arms deal will be looked at very directly," February said.

Anton du Plessis of the Institute for Security Studies said the verdict would have an impact on not only the arms deal, but the Scorpions and the way it had approached any possible further investigations into the arms deal and any politically charged corruption cases.

"The judgment will give a vote of confidence to the Scorpions and the way it has conducted its investigations, but I don't think it will open the floodgate for corruption investigation over the arms deal."

Du Plessis welcomed the conviction, which he said had clearly linked Zuma and Shaik.

"The evidence that has overwhelmingly convicted Shaik is the same evidence that will form the basis of a possible case against Zuma. There will be a lot of fireworks in a pretty uncertain environment," he added.

With acknowledgements to Jonathan Ancer and The Mercury.