A major “cash for access” scandal is brewing around a
meeting of the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s)
Military Command Council at a luxurious golf estate later this
Companies in the defence manufacturing industry will each contribute
a minimum of R20000 in sponsorship towards a “work session” of the
Military Command Council at the Zimbali Resort. The scheme to allow
defence industry companies to get close to the nation’s military
commanders is similar in style to the African National Congress’s
controversial Progressive Business Forum where big business buys
access to Cabinet ministers.
It is, however, potentially worse in concept as it allows the
manufacturers of defence equipment to buy access to public servants
responsible for adjudicating the purchase of military hardware. The
issue will raise concern about the independence of the adjudication
of military tenders, particularly if any of the major sponsors are
in line to supply SANDF contracts in the future. The Military
Command Council consists of senior defence force officers who
oversee air, navy, army and medical services and advise on the
Early last month the executive director of the Aerospace, Maritime
and Defence Industries Association (AMD), Simphiwe Hamilton, wrote
to members of his organisation inviting them to “sponsor the work
session (of the council ) to promote the existing good working
relationship between the SANDF and the defence industry”.
The choice of the Zimbali Resort and Golf Estate north of Durban was
so that the council’s work session could be held in a secure
environment, “conducive to both a productive output and a relaxed
Making matters worse is that the civilian oversight defence
secretariat organised a work session of the defence secretariat
council to coincide with that of the Military Command Council at the
same venue. This led to a request to the defence industry for an
Defence secretary Mpumi Mpofu, in making the request this month,
said the coincidence of the two working sessions at Zimbali was to
“save time and ensure that there is a smooth working arrangement”.
Mr Hamilton’s letter of invitation says that the South African Air
Force is responsible for making arrangements.
Each member of the council will get a bag, folder and stationery
that will include branding of all sponsors including “relevant and
classy corporate gifts”.
“Every sponsor will be invited to send one representative to attend
the sponsors’ evening on July 29. Sponsors will be flown in by the
SANDF from Pretoria and will be accommodated at the same venue.
During the evening of July 29 and during the dinner the chief of the
SANDF will recognise the contributions of the sponsors and the
evening will be spent together,” Mr Hamilton’s letter says.
He encourages members to budget for the event as it is an annual
Independent defence consultant and correspondent for Jane’s Defence
Weekly, Helmoed Heitman, said last night he believed the practice of
selling access at this level was wrong.
He said, however, that it was
not new. The old apartheid-era SADF did similar things and many
defence forces did the same *1.
Prominent Western Cape defence contractor Richard Young of CCII, who
was one of those invited to be a sponsor, said in an e-mail to Mr
Hamilton that smaller companies would be disadvantaged and this was
probably unconstitutional and unlawful.
He later told Business Day this would compromise the independence of
military tender procedures as “the AMD responses put this
sponsorship activity purely in the realm of marketing. Sponsoring a
buyer can only lead to a conflict of interest. Sponsoring a state
buyer is a conflict of
interest that is unlawful. There are enough
legitimate avenues for marketing.
If a buyer knows of a company that has contributed R20000 or R100000
to its luxury, it can hardly ignore this largesse when it comes to
Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier said it was a
“simple cash-for-access scandal”, with the defence industry
bankrolling a meeting in return for access to the highest decision
makers in the military.
“There are major conflicts of interests here and it is completely
unethical and possibly illegal,” he said and called for Defence
Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to intervene to ensure the
meeting was moved to an alternative, more reasonably priced venue,
launch an internal investigation and ensure that any money collected
from the defence industry was returned.
He would refer the matter to the public protector and auditor-
general for investigation.
Attempts to get comment from the chief of the SANDF were
With acknowledgements to
Wyndham Hartley and Business Day.
when two wrongs became a right they thought it safe to go out onto
the streets again.