Call for independent probe into arms deal

Arms-deal corruption must be probed by an independent judiciary, Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia de Lille said on Tuesday.

“It is the African National Congress’s [ANC] right to set up an ad-hoc committee on the arms deal, but we in the ID want all the allegations of corruption in the deal to be tested by an independent judiciary,” said De Lille.

The party leader was responding to ANC’s announcement earlier on Tuesday in which it said it would draw up a “detailed factual report”.

“We are not asking for the re-opening of the arms deal.
We need to get a detailed formal report ... to take informed decisions on what to do and locate this case and the charges against the president,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told journalists.

“We have a duty to get information on the arms deal from all sources, particularly official sources.”

He said the report would not be made public.

De Lille said the only way for South Africans to get justice was from the Constitution and the judiciary.

“If the ANC is worried about having to do ‘thumb-sucking’, then they need only refer to the Joint Investigations Task Team Report, which was set up to investigate the arms deal and whose findings were accepted by the ANC,” she said.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) also called for a probe into the arms deal on Tuesday.

DA spokesperson Eddie Trent said instead of a detailed factual report, the arms-deal probe needed to be reopened, taking into account all the new facts and evidence that had emerged in the last two years.

“The ANC [in its various components and capacities] has always gone out of its way to obstruct a proper investigation into the arms deal. Too many questions have remained unanswered until now,” said Trent.

“It is disingenuous for the party to now go and draw up a report on a process it has done its best to try and manipulate,” he said.

Trent said he would raise the issue as a matter of urgency once parliamentary proceedings resumed next week.

The ANC’s ad-hoc committee will include party deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, Mathews Phosa, Lindiwe Sisulu and Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mantashe said the party’s national executive committee (NEC) wanted the report because “we don’t want to do thumb-sucking”.

ANC treasurer general Phosa said the committee would help the NEC understand the arms deal “on a much more informed basis”.

The arms deal referred to was one worth over R40-billion, the integrity of which was questioned by De Lille in the late 1990s.

‘Indelible stain’

Meanwhile, the DA on Tuesday said that the ANC favoured its newly elected president over the interests of the country.

“By reaffirming Jacob Zuma as its candidate for the country’s presidency, the ANC NEC has shown that it prizes loyalty to Zuma over the interests of South Africa,” said acting party leader Joe Seremane.

Earlier on Tuesday, the NEC reaffirmed its support for Zuma as a candidate for the presidency of the country in the 2009 elections.

This was in line with a resolution of the 2005 national general council, the ANC said.

The NEC said it sought no special treatment for its president, who faces corruption charges—only fairness and justice.

However, Seremane said the chances were slim that Zuma’s corruption court case would be wound up before the next election.

“This raises the unpalatable prospect of a sitting president facing corruption charges in court,” he said.

Seremane said President Thabo Mbeki did the right thing by relieving Zuma of his position as deputy president of the country after he was implicated in his the fraud trial of his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik.

“The fact that the ANC is willing to field Zuma as its presidential candidate when he faces his own corruption trial indicates how low the ruling party has sunk.

“The prospect of a sitting president facing corruption charges in court—whether he is proven innocent or guilty—will leave an indelible stain on South Africa’s reputation abroad and the morale of our citizenry,” said Seremane.—Sapa

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