Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2008-02-29 Reporter: Ella Smook

Opposition Parties Query Lekota on Lohatla and Demand to See Full Report



Cape Argus



Reporter Ella Smook

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Opposition parties are demanding the Department of Defence release the full report on the Lohatla incident in which nine soldiers were killed by a barrage of bullets fired from an out-of-control anti-aircraft gun last year.

Earlier this week Defence Minister Mosiua Lekota faced a grilling by the opposition, who sought answers to questions not addressed by Lekota's summarised release of the investigation's findings.

The DA, ID and FF Plus asked whether the full report would be tabled, and released to the public, and whether legal action would be taken against the arms manufacturer.

They also wanted to know whether the Mark V gun had "end-stops" (to stop the gun from firing wildly in the event of a malfunction) and whether these had been in position.

Details of service reports for the guns were also requested, as was information on the liability clause in the contract between the government and Swiss weapons manufacturer Oerlikon Contraves.

Lekota said there were bound to be legal liabilities and that lawyers were "looking at" the issue.

He explained to Parliament that the accident had been caused by a malfunctioning "spring pin", which was meant to keep the gun focused.

Lekota said this had happened before in another (unspecified) country, but the manufacturer had failed to inform South Africa.

Human error was not to blame, Lekota reiterated.

But opposition parties are questioning why the full report has not yet been brought into the open.

"He is saying we must believe him. We are saying will you please let us determine that, by giving us the full report," DA defence spokes- man Rafeek Shah told the Cape Argus yesterday.

Shah said he would ask the chairman of the parliamentary defence portfolio committee to formally request the full report and for the committee to be briefed on it and given an opportunity to interrogate it.

A report from the "other country" where the spring pin was responsible for such a weapons systems failure would also "satisfy some outstanding questions", he said.

Lekota was arguing that the report suggested there was no human error, Shah said. "(But) if he admits human error, then there would be huge implications for the SANDF, with questions about training, capacity and new recruits. There would also be political implications," he said.

Arms contractor Richard Young said the Department of Defence seemed to have adjusted its explanation since the initial summary.

Even this "quite different explanation *1" remained implausible, he said.

With acknowledgements to Ella Smook and Cape Argus.


A       : "interface (pin) between the hand/motor actuator selector lever"; or

If if don't like my explanation, I have another :

B       :
"spring pin, which kept the gun focused" .