Publication: Dispatch Online Issued: Date: 2005-04-01 Reporter: Editorial Opinion Reporter: Reporter:

Arms Double Dealing



Dispatch Online

Date 2005-04-01


Editorial Opinion

Web Link


The hardened shell of South Africa's R40 billion arms deal will not, it seems, be blown open by any decisive action by the government, but will be dismantled screw by twisted screw in our civil and criminal courts.

With every month evidence accrues that there was a feast of personal enrichment and an elaborate cover-up involving auditor-general Shauket Fakie, the public protector, the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, and the Presidency itself. Key documents are the draft report by the Joint Investigating Team (JIT) and the very hygienic final report.

Critics say the arms deal has virtually disabled the SA National Defence Force by sponging up funds it needs to operate and has yielded few of the 65 000 jobs the country was promised.

The thundering silence of the government, the ANC and the SABC on recent developments has muted public debate - not that there is much to debate. Either the claims being made are verifiable or they are not.

Democratic Alliance MP Eddie Trent has added two sets of minutes of a ministerial briefing on August 31, 1998. The meeting purportedly recommended the air force buy the British BAE/Hawk jet trainer in preference to the Italian Aermacchi MB339. The original minutes record no such decision.

Present at the meeting was the then Defence Secretary, General Pierre Steyn. He later questioned the legal basis for buying the arms, and said the process was "riddled" with irregularities and he was "appalled" by an investigation designed to cover "political manipulation" - all of which were excised from the JIT report.

Credit for exposing the differences between the draft and the thoroughly sanitised final JIT report belongs to CI managing director Richard Young. He fought a three-year battle in the courts to get Fakie, under threat of imprisonment, to hand over the draft and the supporting documents.

Young says a damning draft report went to the Presidency on October 4, 2001 *1. Fakie met the president about October 16 and the report was sanitised between October 18 and 26 to exonerate the government and all its minions. Either this happened or it did not. The evidence is in the public domain.

The government's chance to clean the Augean stables had come and gone. Since then questionable claims to Parliament and the country have only augmented the muck. Many have paid with their careers. Many more could.

Young is suing the government for R150m for the loss of the electronics contract to Thales, a company associated with Shabir Schaik. Meanwhile Schaik is on trial for fraud and corruption. *2 Young has also launched four actions against government officials and rivals for allegedly defamatory comments. The Human Rights Commission hopes the Promotion of Access to Information Act will force Armscor to release documents relating to part of the deal.

The major opposition parties have called for a judicial commission of inquiry into the whole arms deal. But judicial commissions are always hobbled by their terms of reference and provide the convenient shields of "sub judice" and "afgehandel" (disposed of) to fend off all other inquiries.

Better the claims be dealt with, one by one, in open court.

With acknowledgement to Dispatch Online.

*1  It did indeed. This is confirmed by Shauket Fakie himself in a sworn affidavit attached to his own court papers trying the defend the indefensible.

Note : Fakie's appeal against his contempt of court conviction comes up fairly soon in the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein.

*2  Since then, Shaik has been found guilty on all three counts including the general corruption and arms deal bribery counts. Now his benefactor, Thales South Africa, and their mutual beneficiaries have been formally indicted with almost identical corruption charges.

But it seems that there were other pigs the size of elephants feeding at the troughs of arms deal bumiputera. The one elephant thinks that another elephant can be used in its defence. Maybe, maybe not.

This is a previously missed, but brilliant opinion piece dredged from the heart of the Eastern Cape. How they complied it, I do not know.