Did Parliament really sign off on the arms deal?
Mail & Guardian
Expectations will be high as ex-DA MP Raenette Taljaard testifies on whether the House was undermined to ensure there was no probe into the arms deal.
That Parliament approved of the arms deal is a line that has been repeated over and over by government witnesses testifying at the Seriti commission of inquiry into the deal. But it is an assertion that is disputed, and that dispute might be formally put to the commission on Thursday in Pretoria.
At the heart of this dispute will be the testimony of Raenette Taljaard, a former parliamentarian for the Democratic Alliance (DA), who believes that Parliament was systematically and purposefully undermined to ensure that government would be exonerated by any probe into the arms deal.
What remains is an institution that, as recently as 2000, was an enthusiastic interrogator of government spending, but is now a mere rubber stamp for Cabinet decisions, according to the former MP.
Taljaard, who now teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town, will testify before the commission when it resumes its public hearings on Thursday, after a short adjournment last week. Her 2012 book, Up in Arms: Pursuing Accountability for the Arms Deal in Parliament, reads like an anatomy of how to scupper an investigation.
Stunting of Parliament’s oversight role
Taljaard’s experience of the arms deal, viewed from the opposition benches in Parliament and retold in her book, was that it dealt a blow to its institutions. “South Africa has been damaged by the arms deal,” Taljaard wrote. “Its institutions have barely survived the ferocity of the consequent assault on the values and ideals of our new democracy.”
The second Parliament, whose speaker was Frene Ginwala, should have busied itself with “carving out a clear oversight role for [itself]”. Instead, Taljaard wrote that Ginwala occupied herself with finding reasons why Parliament’s role in investigating allegations of corruption in the arms deal should be limited. “The stunting of Parliament’s oversight role, which continues to plague the institution to this day, is all part of this legacy.”
In August 2000, auditor general Shauket Fakie released a report that found many irregularities in the deal and recommended an investigation. The public protector’s investigation was about to begin. In October 2000, Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) released its now infamous 14th report.
After conducting public hearings into the arms deal and interviewing key decision-makers, Scopa recommended a multiagency probe that would deploy the forensic and legal muscle of the state’s various arms to uncover the truth about the allegations of bribery and corruption.
Soon after presenting its 14th report to Parliament, Scopa’s members in the ANC, who included Andrew Feinstein (now an outspoken critic of the deal), were reportedly reprimanded by the ANC’s governance committee for questioning “the integrity of government” in the Scopa meetings.
Publicly, the government gave its assurances that it would co-operate with the multiagency probe, but former president Thabo Mbeki controversially refused to allowed Judge Willem Heath’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to join the probe, despite a request from Heath to investigate. The SIU has the power to cancel flawed government contracts.
Frivolous and vexatious – or Kafkaesque?
By 2001, a “concerted assault” by Cabinet was under way, intended to undermine the work of Scopa and the auditor general, according to Taljaard; a series of events that she termed “Kafkaesque”. The Joint Investigation Team, the multiagency investigation, released its report that year. But it had been edited to exclude any reference to wrongdoing by government or Cabinet ministers.
In her book, Taljaard writes that she attempted to get hold of the unedited draft report by requesting a copy from the auditor general. “I wanted to see for myself the extent of the alterations that had been made. In January 2002 he responded to my request by stating that it was ‘manifestly frivolous and vexatious’.”
Richard Young, an arms deal bidder who had lost, later went to court to obtain the draft report. It was materially different to the final version presented to Parliament, which attributed no blame to government.
In 1997, two years before the deal was signed, Pan Africanist Congress MP Patricia De Lille had tabled her infamous dossier of allegations in Parliament, requesting a fully fledged investigation. De Lille gave evidence at the Seriti commission on July 24.
Taljaard’s resignations unrelated to the ANC
Taljaard’s book makes it clear that she resigned from the DA first, and from Parliament second, citing an irretrievable breakdown in her relationship with then party leader Tony Leon.
She wrote of her resignation: “Allow me to clarify again: my reasons for departing relate primarily to the DA, key personalities within it and their respective roles, and not to the ANC.”
But her critique of the arms deal and its damage to oversight mechanisms in Parliament and government, as well as allegations that Cabinet unduly exerted pressure on these independent institutions to protect ministers from accountability, are sure to emerge as strong themes in her evidence on Thursday.
Sarah Evans is a Mail & Guardian news reporter.
With acknowledgement to Sarah Evans and Mail and Guardian.
There are two different aspects on the question whether Parliament really signed off on the arms deal?
Firstly, did it approved the acquisition.
The answer is no.
It approved the Defence Review and possibly its force design,
But it did not approve the acquisition itself and its spending.
It could not - the DoD simply did not have the money budgeted.
Modise said so.
Lt Gen Steyn as Secretary for Defence advised him as such as testified as such at the APC.
Secondly, Parliament's SCOPA got mutilated by the Arms Deal and the Government's all out assault on anything anywhere to avoid its fallout.
Such mutilation makes hanging, drawing and quartering look mild.
Because Parliament's and its SCOPA's oversight role is no more.
The Arms Deal killed South Africa - at least in that respect.
It effectively the SA Air Force and SA Navy because, by buying the wrong stuff they cannot do their jobs.
The SAAF has had to mothball Gripens fighter jets, Hawk jet trainers and even Agusta light utility helicopters - because it has no funds to operate and maintain them.
The SAN currently has only one operationally-capable frigate and one operationally-capable submarine - because it has no funds to operate and maintain them.
The SAN says at the Seriti Commission that it needed four frigates and three attack submarines because "to patrol is to control"
Yet instead of the 270 days per year operational availability (around 75%) it has achieved about 18% patrol availability since acquisition after nearly ten years.
And even that figure is grossly misleading.
Most of that operational time for the four frigates is spent on Operation Copper - patrolling north of Mozambique and Madagascar on anti-piracy patrol.
That is not within the SAN's constitutional mandate - which is to ensure the sovereignty of the republic.
So the frigates do not patrol the territorial waters of the country.
Indeed the budget to do anti-piracy patrol does not even come from the MoD, it comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Some of this madness comes from the first question.
Parliament did not approve the SDPs and the Government bought the wrong stuff.
But where Parliament did come in was the Joint Defence Committee.
That was chaired by one Tony Yengeni.
He caused the Defence Review that delayed Project Sitron and caused the DoD to acquire the most expensive German MEKO 200AS stealth frigates rather than the far less expensive Spanish option from Bazan.
Because he was paid DM2,5 million to do so by the German Frigate Consortium.
Because the German Frigate Consortium was prepared to pay some R300 million in bribes to he, ye and the party in order to get its R6,873 billion frigates contract (including R2,599 billion to the French and Chippy's and Joe's local mates at ADS and FBS), this instead of the R4,5 billion previous Spanish selection.
But even then in 1998 the SAN persisted with its far less expensive Spanish selection.
But the lure of the German Frigate Consortium was too overwhelming.
Because it paid USD3 million to Chippy and a group represented by him to swing the decision from the Spanish back to the Germans.
According to Chippy, this was no easy achievement and well worth the USD3 million.
That money was paid, through the British Channel Islands and a company called Meriam Ltd.
All set up by Chippy's bosom buddy Ian Elvis Pierce.
And the money was received in the republic into the hands of various juristic special purpose vehicles.
But that's not all.
The GFC paid another USD22 million.
This time through chief paymaster Tony Georgadis and his own master special purpose vehicle called Mallar Inc registered in Liberia.
This is all dinkum.
Not quite proven, but alleged and highly plausible, is another USD30 million collected by the chief's treasurer and accompanied by a resident German bagman in Geneva using a private jet.
Was it the cash in notes or was it a double PIN of two Swiss bank accounts.
That we do not know.
Because it was never investigated by either the Scorpions (DSO) or the Hawks (DPCI).
Sad, because the Swiss Federal Investigating Authorities offered copies of their seized documents, their co-operation and their mutual legal assistance.
But this was declined.
Jeff Radebe, Andries Nel and their toyboys in the Ministry of Justice and National Prosecuting Authority.
This is a tiny part of the big story, the big picture.
But it seems hat no one wants to hear it.
All of it is in any case known to the National Prosecuting Authority and South African Police Services.
The German Investigating authorities told them so.
But 16 years later - who cares?
BTW - Mrs de Lille tabled her infamous dossier of allegations in Parliament in 1998, not 1997.
The RFIs were issued by the DoD in September in 1997.
The cabinet announced the preferred suppliers in November 1998.
The signed the supply contracts in December 1999.
The supply contracts because effective in April 2000.
Most of the wonga was splodged after just after Effective Date of Contract.
The SARB forex records show some of it.
But some it was paid,m or at least promised, after selection of the preferred suppliers (BAe, Saab, GFC, GSC). That's when those who lost out complained and Congress Consultants took up the IBM Thinkpad and created the de Lille Dossier. Two of its editors are now dead. RIP.
Hopefully, after writing this, I will not go the same way.
But actually, very little of it is new and mostly it is in the public domain.