Come Clean, Opposition Urges Mbeki
President Thabo Mbeki faced mounting pressure from opposition parties yesterday to come clean about his alleged involvement in arms deal kickbacks amounting to R30m.
Cape Town President Thabo Mbeki faced mounting pressure from opposition parties yesterday to come clean about his alleged involvement in arms deal kickbacks amounting to R30m.
The latest explosive allegations that Mbeki personally engineered R30m in kickbacks mainly for the benefit of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) provides a politically incriminating backdrop for the party as its president, Jacob Zuma, enters the dock of the Pietermaritzburg High Court on charges of corruption. Mbeki allegedly gave Zuma R2m and the rest to the ANC.
The allegations in the Sunday Times suggested that it was not only Zuma that should be on trial but the ruling party itself and Mbeki, who strongly denied he had ever received any money from the German contractor allegedly involved.
Mbeki rejected the newspaper's allegations as spurious and said they were a "hotchpotch recycling" of others made previously. The allegations appeared to be motivated by a hidden agenda *1, a statement from the Presidency said.
Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya said it was important for the nation to know how it had been betrayed by its leader and how its money had been wasted, and to understand that constant vigilance was required to guard against corruption by leaders.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), Independent Democrats (ID) and United Democratic Movement (UDM) called for an independent judicial inquiry to investigate the latest allegations of corruption and were firmly opposed to any amnesty for offenders.
The urgent need for political party funding to be regulated was also highlighted by critics such as Institute of Security Studies researcher Hennie van Vuuren and the head of the Institute for Democracy in SA's Political Information and Monitoring Service, Judith February.
The Sunday Times article said the allegations stemmed from a report last year by a UK specialist risk consultancy into the international business activities of German shipbuilding giant MAN Ferrostaal. The newspaper claimed the company paid Mbeki R30m to guarantee it won the R6bn submarine contract, which it did, even though it was not one of the original short-listed bidders *2.
ID leader Patricia de Lille, who first blew the lid off arms deal corruption, said the latest allegations were in line with her original dossier, which was tabled in Parliament in 1999 and had led to the successful prosecution of former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and Zuma's financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, as well as charges being brought against Zuma.
De Lille said that according to her information, the German supplier made it on to the short list only after a visit by Mbeki to Germany *3. "It is no surprise to the ID that there is an orchestrated campaign under way to grant amnesty for corruption to those involved in the arms deal ," De Lille said.
DA leader Helen Zille said it was time for all those who solicited bribes in the arms deal to face the full force of the law. A judicial commission of inquiry was necessary, she said.
Zille said that if allegations of Mbeki's involvement were true, "it would show that the ANC is rotten to the core".
"It would explain why the president and the ANC have blocked every attempt to investigate the arms deal."
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said only a judicial commission of inquiry could deal with the allegations of corruption surrounding the arms deal. The latest allegations explained "why the newly elected lynch mob that controls the ANC is reluctant to trust the judiciary, because they are aware of these shady dealings and schemes".
Van Vuuren was critical of the "disgraceful" fact that there was no transparency of political party funding, which was unregulated. He strongly condemned suggestions of an amnesty regarding the arms deal and said it was important that those involved in corruption were held to account.
With acknowledgements to LInda Ensor and Business Day.