Publication: Mail and Guardian
Reporter: Evelyn Groenink
Reporter: Sam Sole
The Musketeers Who Bought The Jets
Mail and Guardian
Evelyn Groenink, Sam Sole
wasn’t just defence minister Joe Modise who, after being wined and dined by British Aerospace in the early Nineties,
pushed through a deal for Hawk jets that South Africa could ill afford.
In this endeavour he was supported by two white South Africans, Ron
Haywood and Llew Swan. How these three got together is still not entirely
Swan, who now lives in Australia, befriended Modise while still an
executive with defence company Reunert.
Llew Swan had been taking the incoming black elite to soccer parties in Soweto,
with luxurious wining and dining in the suburbs thrown in,” remembers Richard
Young, one local arms electronics manufacturer who was about to lose out on the
forthcoming arms deal.
Swan confirms *1: “In the early Nineties
-- I am talking prior to 1996 -- we, at Reunert, operated a soccer box at FNB
stadium and we entertained ANC people and some of the other
Swan fell out with Reunert
and resigned, and Modise appointed him to head Armscor in August 1998.
Meanwhile, European middlemen were not far behind. “There was a big move from the UK [United Kingdom] at the time,”
remembers former secretary of defence Pierre Steyn. “After my retirement as a
general in 1993, I was also approached to re-introduce a UK
defence company into the South African market.”
During this time,
Steyn says he became aware that the British embassy was
building up a network of consultants and representatives in South Africa.
Modise had already been wooed by British Aerospace as early as 1991, when
representatives of the company had first befriended him.
Modise had also
made the acquaintance of Ron Haywood, a former pilot and member of the Citizen
Force Council (CFC), a volunteer division of the defence force. In the early
Nineties, Haywood and other members of the CFC, including its chairperson, Ian
Deetlefs, approached Modise and his allies in the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) high
command: “simply in order to get to know these people who had been our enemies”,
Haywood told the Mail & Guardian. “One day we were going to want to sell these guys stuff and we don’t even know them…
it was a kind of BEE thing.”
The resulting relationship eventually led to
Haywood being appointed chairperson of Armscor by Modise in 1995, while his CFC
colleague, Deetlefs, was simultaneously appointed head of
Meanwhile, Haywood maintained a close friendship with Anglovaal
chairperson Basil Hersov, who, from 1992, acted as a consultant to British
Aerospace. Haywood denies that he knew that Hersov was a consultant for BAE: “I
had no links whatsoever with the UK defence industry,” Haywood
Hersov and BAE agent Richard Charter paired up with Haywood in 1998
as members of the Airborne Trust, a BAE-funded venture to benefit MK veterans.
“But I was involved out of charity only,” insists
Haywood. “It was only much later that BAE became
A memorandum between MK and BAE is dated March 25
1998, eight months before the BAE Hawk contracts were passed.
UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade describes the South African arms deal in a
2003 report as an “opportunity for BAE and others to gain
effective control over the South African arms industry”.
arms deal was concluded in 1999, Haywood and Swan left Armscor to join their now
close friend Modise in new ventures. Swan and Modise
became partners of Russian arms dealer Mark Voloshin, while Modise, Haywood and
Deetlefs joined up in a controversial deal with Conlog, a South African
logistics and electronics company.
In March 2002 the Financial
Mail broke the story of how Modise, via an entity called the Letaba Trust,
obtained a significant stake in Conlog while he was still
minister of defence, and when Conlog anticipated receiving important
offset contracts as part of the arms deal.
Deetlefs had arranged a cosy
back-to-back sale that would have netted the men millions, but inquiries
launched by a subsequent shareholder led to protracted litigation and the
effective collapse of the deal.
On his deathbed Modise was persuaded to
place his thumb-print -- he was too weak to sign by then -- on a new will, which
was witnessed by Swan and which placed his main asset, the Letaba Trust, under
the direction of Deetlefs, together with his widow, Jackie, and another former Reunert executive, Tony
The original copy of the will was,
however, lost, and so control reverted to Modise’s old
According to records at the Pretoria Master’s Office, Modise’s
estate contained little of material value. If BAE rewarded some of those who had
helped them land the deal, it seems that either the rewards never reached Modise
or that the secret of their whereabouts died with
With acknowledgements to Evelyn Groenink,
Sam Sole and Mail and Guardian.
*1 When hearsay becomes gain
Two great articles by Evelyn Groenink and Sam Sole - don't know how
they did it - ten to fifteen years after it all happened.