Tutu, De Klerk call for arms-deal probe

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president FW de Klerk have written to President Kgalema Motlanthe to request that he establish an independent commission of inquiry into the arms deal.

Motlanthe on Wednesday said he would comment on the request once he had replied to the Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Presidential spokesperson Thabo Masebe said Motlanthe had not yet had a chance to look at the letter.

“It will finally get to Pretoria and to the president in the next day or so. It would only be fair to comment once he has seen the letter and replied to former president De Klerk and Archbishop Tutu,” said Masebe.

The two urged Motlanthe to draft the terms of reference of the commission to allow the “widest possible investigation into impropriety and corruption,” reported the Star.

The pair also suggested an investigation into the possibility of cancelling the arms deal and recovering payments already made.

The campaign was supported by the Tutu and De Klerk foundations, the Helen Suzman foundation and other organisations, reported the newspaper.

The Scorpions staged a series of raids related to the arms deal, their spokesperson said on November 27.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the investigation was looking into “allegations of fraud and corruption relating to the fight against the conduct of the arms deal”.

The searches, carried out simultaneously at seven locations in three provinces, flowed from the Scorpions’ belated corruption probe of defence multinational BAE Systems — and the R1-billion in ‘commissions” the company paid on the deal.

Investigators believe the commissions were partly designed to conceal bribes used to influence key decision-makers, including the late defence minister Joe Modise.

A copy of the search warrant, obtained by the Mail & Guardian, shows that racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud are suspected.

In 1999 the South African government signed a R16-billion contract — present value more than R30-billion — with BAE and its Swedish partner, Saab, to buy BAE Hawk jet trainers and Saab Gripen fighters, representing half the value of the total arms deal.

The search warrant, issued last Friday by Pretoria High Court Judge Jerry Shongwe, fingers three sets of suspects:

  • BAE and its officials and front companies, including BAE’s head office marketing services and the opaque Red Diamond Trading, registered in Panama;
  • Middlemen acting as advisers or consultants in the South African deal — prominent among them Zimbabwean arms dealer John Bredenkamp and Fana Hlongwane, Modise’s former special adviser; and
  • Unnamed officials or agencies of the South African government who might have influenced the awarding of the arms deal and its related offset contracts.

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