Motlanthe Declines “Arms Deal” Probe
Franny Rabkin, Hajra Omarjee
President Kgalema Motlanthe has decided not to investigate ongoing allegations of impropriety surrounding the R47 billion 1999 Strategic Defence Package.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former head of state FW de Klerk petitioned Motlanthe last week to appoint “an independent and public judicial commission of inquiry” into claims of bribery and corruption related to the acquisition of 50 fighter aircraft, 30 light utility helicopters, four frigates and three submarines for R47.4 billion, the current Treasury figure, payable over 12 years.
The two Nobel Laureates wanted Motlanthe to act by today, the 60th International Human Rights Day.
“There should also be an investigation into the possibility of cancelling arms deal contracts tainted by corrupt and fraudulent dealings, and recovery of payments already made,” the two add in a co-signed letter.
The South African Press Association reports Motlanthe is convinced that a commission of inquiry would not be an appropriate tool to investigate alleged criminal activities during the arms deals.
"There is already an investigation in some of these matters and we are confident that our law enforcement agencies are capable of handling any allegations pertaining to the arms deal," his spokesman Thabo Masebe says.
Masebe says a letter will be sent to Tutu and De Klerk informing them about Motlanthe’s decision. The letter will be made public. Tutu and de Klerk’s call received support from clergymen, academics, authors, activists and politicians.
“Government has always maintained that if anyone has information implicating individuals in the arms deal, then that person should forward such information to law enforcement agencies," Masebe adds.
De Klerk Foundation spokesman Dave Steward this afternoon told defenceWeb they had not yet received the latter and could not comment further. An official at Tutu’s office said the same.
SDP critic and CCII CEO Richard Young says he is disappointed. “There must be something to hide. That’s the only logical conclusion,” he adds.
Young also scoffed at Masebe’s call for parties to forward information to the authorities. He says he has been doing so for years without any result, most recently in March when he again wrote to the National Prosecuting Authority. He notes that nine months later the sole response has been an acknowledgement of receipt.
Democratic Alliance (DA) public accounts spokesman Eddie Trent says he notes Motlanthe’s decision “with great disappointment, but little surprise.”
Trent says the allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the [SDP] go to the heart of the issue of corruption in South Africa. Until it is dealt with immediately, in the right forum, and with a robust and thorough investigation, the arms deal will continue to resurface like a cancer eating away at the body politic…”
With acknowledgements to Leon Engelbrecht and defenceWeb.