Letter to the Editor Business
Country Needs Facts, Not Groundless Allegations
Two weeks ago (May 21), Business Day broke the news that the auditor-general had materially altered his draft report concerning the strategic defence packages.
This was after the auditor-general claimed in Parliament along with those other two bastions of public protection, the public protector and the national director of public prosecutions, and in official press and other statements he had not done so.
Or, at least, that "our respective opinions and findings were not negotiable, nor subject to change at the behest of whomsoever in government".
So initially we got a "violent" reaction from the auditor-general claiming the journalists, editors and I had not "closely studied and compared" the draft and final reports, perhaps deliberately.
Why did such a position not fly? Because whether or not the draft report was materially altered can be determined by an objective test, not a subjective one.
Then, on May 30, President Thabo Mbeki came out blazing.
However, he didn't choose the newspaper that published the revelations about the auditor-general's draft report, or even the mainstream media, but the noncritical forum of the party's digital soapbox, the ANC Today website.
And just what a sorry mess this response is consisting of cheap rhetoric, offensive religious analogy, incorrect "facts", misquotations and the favourite African National Congress trump card, the racist conspiracy.
But apart from a nonprecision attack on all these "racist" journalists and editors, there is one precision munition launched personally against me, one to whom he refers as the "gentleman litigant".
Mbeki ensures that all direct reference to the arms deal itself is avoided. In his digital missive, Mbeki states "The gentleman concerned makes the false allegation that during the life of the government of national unity, formed in 1994, a contract for four corvettes to be built by Bazan of Spain was cancelled after being awarded'."
However, just compare this to my statement as published in Business Day "This was not long after a R2,4bn (1995 rands) tender for four patrol corvettes (read light frigates) was cancelled after, and to all intents and purposes, being awarded to Bazan of Spain, after a three-year acquisition process, which had been approved all the way up to and including the Armaments Acquisition Council."
Mbeki should be aware of the statement under oath of one of his servants "I just want to point out in 1994 and 1995 there were very particular approvals given for the corvette, the navy corvette, and there is certain documentation which I do not want to now name, but we were on our way to ask for political authority in 1995 particularly. At that time the corvette had money approved on the budget."
Such misquotations recall memories of Mbeki's mangling of advocate Jannie Lubbe SC's and Frank Kahn SC's legal opinion of December 18 2001, whereby cherry-picking and reconstruction of phrases led to the interpretation the two senior lawyers' opinion was that the Scorpions' (sic) special investigating unit should not get a presidential proclamation to investigate the arms deal because there was no prima facie evidence of criminal misconduct at that stage.
This was nonsense. The formal opinion of Lubbe and Kahn included the following conclusions : "There are sufficient grounds in terms of the Special Investigating Unit and Special Tribunals Act No74 of 1996, for a special investigating unit to conduct an investigation, and, in our opinion, such an investigation is warranted."
What a difference the special investigating unit would have made to this probe, and spared government this long drawn out self-torture.
Getting back to the digital missive, Mbeki states "Perhaps taking a cue from this, some in our country have appointed themselves as fishers of corrupt men'," and that "Our governance system is the sea in which they have chosen to exercise their craft."
Well, just a few months ago, in the state of the nation address at the opening of Parliament, Mbeki said it was the intention to "intensify our offensive against the cancer of corruption within the public service".
"This work will be intensified in all three spheres of government, building on the experience accumulated within departments and through the efforts of such institutions as the public protector, the auditor-general and the Public Service Commission."
What more is there to be said, other than it appears clear that we cannot rely on the special investigating unit, the auditor-general, the public protector or the directorate of public prosecutions to cure this cancer of corruption in our public service?
C²I² Systems MD
With acknowledgement to Richard Young and the Business Day.