Arms Deal is Rotten, MP Insists
President Thabo Mbeki's failure to sue in connection with sensational claims that he was implicated in a R30-million kickback from a German arms company reinforced perceptions that the president and government were scared of an independent scrutiny of the country's arms deal.
This is according to Democratic Alliance MP Eddie Trent, who in a member's statement on Thursday, also accused National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete of "stonewalling" his efforts to gain access to a number of Department of Defence documents currently being kept under lock and key by parliament's Serjeant-at-Arms.
Trent said that while government kept saying there were no irregularities in respect of the controversial arms deal, allegations kept on surfacing - the most recent being the claim about the R30-million kickback, according to media reports.
Trent said it was telling that no defamation action had followed this allegation, adding that this reinforced "the perception that the president and the government are worried that any independent scrutiny of this rotten deal will reveal extensive wrongdoing".
"It is for this reason that the president most likely refuses to appoint an independent inquiry into the arms deal and why government continues to obstruct and prevent access to relevant documents by international investigation agencies.
"If there really are no irregularities, then government should have no reason to prevent those documents from being scrutinised, or for an open inquiry to take place," Trent claimed
He went on to challenge Mbete to give him access to defence documents held at parliament, saying he believed these documents could point to "large-scale irregularities and corruption associated with the arms deal".
"What has government - or parliament for that matter - got to hide that my requests to examine these documents have met with silence?" Trent asked.
His remarks were met with scorn from Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin.
Lekota said the official joint investigation into allegations of corruption in the arms deal *1 had found no problem with government's conduct in the primary contracts, although there were areas of the secondary contracts that needed further investigation.
To continue making such allegations undermined the country's standing internationally, Lekota said.
The minister added that the joint investigation team had enjoyed access to all relevant defence documents *1.
Erwin said Trent's claims were "just not true".
Earlier this month, media reports alleged that Mbeki had received R30-million from MAN Ferrostaal in exchange for the contract to supply three submarines to the SA Navy.
* This article was originally published on page 7 of The Star on August 22, 2008
With acknowledgements to Chiara Carter and Cape Times.