Arms Deal Un-probed
In 1994 the South African Government
announced that it intended to re-equip the air
force and navy.
Four years later, cabinet named its list of preferred suppliers for the deal.
But by then news of massive corruption had already surfaced and in September 1999 Patricia de Lille blew the whistle in parliament.
Patricia De Lille: 'To determine whether certain officials and public representatives are guilty of criminal conduct...'
Back then Patricia was chief whip of the PAC, but she later formed her own party, the Independent Democrats, and is now part of the Western Cape government.
At the time, both the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, SCOPA, and the then Auditor General released damning reports on the arms deal.
The Heath Investigating Unit was appointed to look into the allegations, but not for long.
In 2001 President Thabo Mbeki announced that Judge Willem Heath would be excluded from the investigation.
But in the UK, the conduct of one of the suppliers, British Aerospace, came under the microscope.
Money is paid from London into a BAE front company in the British Virgin Islands called, 'Red Diamond' from there it is transferred to various middlemen around the globe to sway government decisions.
Patricia: 'I can now confirm...'
This gave De Lille more fuel for her battle to bring the guilty to book.
Patricia: '...the following organisations each received R500 000 from ThyssenKrupp: the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela's Children Fund...'
There were some scapegoats.
Former ANC chief whip, Tony Yengeni got four years and Schabir Schaik 15 after an investigation by the now defunct Scorpions.
When the elite unit was dismantled last year, the arms deal probe was taken over by the Hawks.
But last week they announced it had been called off.
Patricia: 'You know, I am angry - I am really, really angry.'
Patricia says it's a disgrace that the investigation has been stopped.
Patricia: 'No wonder corruption is rife in our country today. It is of crisis proportion. People are stealing and looting our country - talk corruption. It's because in government, like I said, you should put criminals in jail and not in government. There are a lot of them still in government today.'
Andrew Feinstein resigned as an ANC MP in 2001 to protest his party's handling of the arms deal.
He now lives in London.
Andrew Feinstein (Former ANC MP): 'I believe high ranking members of ANC - government officials and members of the party itself - benefitted from bribes paid in the deal, and I think this is yet another in what has been a series of decisions to ensure the matter will never get properly investigated. And this is, obviously in the South African case, is the ultimate decision that will close it down.'
It's a sentiment shared by Richard Young, one of the losing bidders who has retreated to a farm near Bredasdorp in the Western Cape.
Richard Young (Arms deal whistleblower): 'I know for a fact that a proper investigation implicates so many people, so high up and the party itself that even though there might be divisions in the party, it makes no sense for one side to go after the other side. There's a pact - what they call a mutually assured destruction pact - to just shut this whole thing down.'
Richard's company was earmarked to supply state of the art technology for the Corvettes, but at the last minute the contract went to a local subsidiary of a French company, connected to Schabir Schaik.
Bongani Bingwa (Carte Blanche presenter): 'The arms deal has hung over the South African political landscape like a dark cloud that refuses to go away. Accusations and rumours have tainted careers at the very highest levels and have given us ordinary citizens an insight into the murky underworld of the armaments industry.'
Andrew Feinstein's book 'After the Party', published in 2007, exposed what went on behind the scenes.
Just as explosive was Terry Crawford-Browne's book 'Eye on the Money'.
As head of the international NGO, Economists Allied for Arms Reduction or ECAAR, Terry was against the arms deal from the start.
Speaking from Palestine, he says he's not surprised that this final investigation has been dumped in the dustbin of history.
Terry Crawford-Browne (Arms deal whistleblower): 'Because there's been huge pressure on every public institution to suppress the investigation into the arms deal.'
Yet there was hope when the Hawks took over in May. So last week's announcement came as a bolt from the blue.
Musa Zondi is spokesperson for the Hawks.
Musa Zondi (Hawks spokesperson): 'Taking into account the totality, the time it has taken to do this, and what still needs to be done, it was a decision taken that was, you know, that it needs to be stopped.'
Zwelinzima Vavi (General Secretary: Cosatu): 'Honestly, not convincing. And not providing any form of confidence to any South African.'
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the flawed deal made only politicians rich and he would like to see it investigated. This from the man who actively fought against President Zuma's prosecution for fraud and corruption, some of it related to the arms deal.
Bongani: 'You supported the dropping of the charges against Jacob Zuma. How is this different?'
Zwelinzima: 'We believed that this was just a political tool by opponents in government to use the small gun of corruption in order to deal with others politically. But we were interested in an investigation not only involved with one person, but an investigation that would have looked at all the leadership.'
Gen Anwar Dramat apparently made the decision.
He's head of Priority Crimes Investigation.
Patricia: 'It is not for a policeman to decide, any evidence that was not tested in the court of law, that, 'I'm going to stop the case because of that.''
Difficulties in obtaining evidence like bank records are given as the reason for dropping the case.
Musa: 'Banks have got a legal provision to carry the records for five years. So something that was in the mid-90s, already you are struggling to find those bank records.'
Terry: ' That's nonsense the affidavits list the bank accounts. Those are the affidavits of 163 pages listing the bank accounts, who the bribes were paid to, the amounts etc etc.'
Terry is referring to affidavits made by the Scorpions and provided to the Serious Fraud Office in the UK that lead to a raid on BAE's offices in November 2008.
Patricia: 'And I saw with my own eyes the evidence, the Scorpions had also produced a schedule of payments by Advocate Gerda Ferreira, produced a schedule of payments of all the South Africans who had received money from British Aero Space.'
Richard: 'All of this is pretty well known to the investigating authorities. The investigation, if it was properly done, could go far deeper and wider.'
In Germany Patricia also met with that country's prosecuting authority.
Patricia: 'I came back with further evidence of a court case that was held in Munich, Germany, where the company that has given discounted cars to Tony Yengeni had paid a admission of guilt fines for giving discounted cars to more South Africans. I came back with the list of names.'
Musa: 'There is information that has been exchanged informally, without following the given procedures from government to government in criminal matters, and we have received an opinion that that evidence has become compromised.'
Bongani: 'Since the news broke this week that the Hawks were no longer investigating, questions have arisen as to whether General Anwar Dramat had the legal mandate to drop the probe or was he motivated by other considerations?"
Patricia: 'They have come with all kinds of excuses not to continue with the investigation. They must tell us the truth. They must tell us who gave them a political instruction to stop the investigation.'
Musa: 'We work very closely with the National Prosecuting Authority and this is the nature of what we do. There is no point in trying to do everything without bringing in your prosecutor, so that if there are loopholes and shortfalls that we have to follow up on, you do that immediately.'
So, just who at the NPA advised Gen Dramat to stop the arms deal investigation?
Musa: 'Obviously it would have to be someone as his counterpart; it would have to be Advocate Menzi Simelani.'
When we asked if Simelani had given such an order, the NPA referred us back to the Hawks.
Meanwhile Richard Young and Andrew Feinstein would like a Judicial Commission to be appointed while Terry Crawford-Browne says he will soon approach the Constitutional Court with his evidence.
Patricia de Lille intends approaching the Public Protector.
She wants to know why the police haven't investigated the three charges she's laid over the years relating to the arms deal.
Patricia: 'This is not what the struggle was all about. We fought for an open, transparent government with principles, vision and values. The ANC that we see today, and the ANC that is responsible for dropping this arms deal investigation is a shell that's left of the ANC of Nelson Mandela. That's what's making me angry.'
With acknowledgements to Carte Blanche.