Write a letter today

Writing in the Business Day this week the former editor and veteran political analyst Allister Sparks said the arms deal was the biggest scandal in South African history. Yes, that’s right, in South African history, not only in our post-apartheid history.

Billions have been lost in the hurried and corrupt purchase of arms we did not need.
But the bigger, much sadder picture has been the loss of innocence of a new and hopeful democracy. The arms deal is behind the extraordinary split of the ANC and it has made the ruling party an enemy of the very institutions it played midwife to.

This week the ANC administered a body blow to the National Prosecuting Authority by firing its national director; it has neutered the corruption-busting Scorpions and hurt the cause of judicial independence, all in an effort to prevent the full truth of this dastardly scandal from emerging.

Though under judicial request to set up a commission of inquiry into the arms deal, President Kgalema Motlanthe refused to do so. So put that in your ballot paper and smoke it, Mr and Ms Citizen SA.

It won’t do. We encourage readers to send letters to the president to tell him that we want a commission of inquiry into the arms deal, as well as to the British defence giant, BAE Systems.

As our investigative team reported last week, BAE is allegedly responsible for the highest payola splurged in the course of hawking us the jet planes we don’t even have qualified pilots to fly. It paid “commissions” through a network of overt and covert companies to satisfy what one of BAE’s agents called “third world procedures”.

While it appears that European and African middlemen like John Bredenkamp received substantial payments, the bling-loving South African playboy Fana Hlongwane, who apparently received even more, is fingered as the man who holds the clue to whom in the political class got the money that has so eroded our political culture.

Third World procedures are behind the decline of post-colonial Africa and are outlawed by various new global conventions. Let our president and BAE know what you think. It stinks.

Please send your mail to:

President Kgalema Motlanthe
Private Bag X1000
Pretoria, 0001
South Africa

The Chair, BAE Systems Holdings
First Floor, Building 2
Cambridge Park
Bauhinia Street
Highveld Techno Park
Centurion, 0046
South Africa

Utter, craven nonsense
We are disappointed. Kgalema Motlanthe has had a decent run in the Union Buildings, He handled his first test well, reshuffling the Cabinet intelligently and soothing feelings rubbed raw by Thabo Mbeki’s ejection. He has been low-profile since, struggling to rise to the challenge of the Zimbabwe crisis, but seeming to work effectively on a limited local agenda.

His next big domestic test came with the completion and release of the Ginwala commission report into the fitness for office of National Prosecuting Authority chief Vusi Pikoli.

Motlanthe has fluffed it comprehensively. Ginwala may have found Pikoli fit for office, but her suggestion that he lacked an appreciation of the political sensitivities of his job, and hadn’t adequately considered national security concerns around the arrest of Jackie Selebi, were grounds for his dismissal, Motlanthe insisted.

That is utter, craven nonsense. Some blame must attach to Ginwala, who had no choice in the face of the evidence but to find in favour of the prosecutions boss. She was so anxious to exonerate Mbeki that she reintroduced these two caveats about Pikoli through a kind of evidentiary back door, without any real supporting testimony.

If she opened the door, however, it was Motlanthe who jumped through it, clinging to those marginal criticisms as if his job depended on them. Perhaps it does.

It was on Pikoli’s watch that charges against Motlanthe’s rival and political boss Jacob Zuma were reinstated. It is hard to imagine Blade Nzimande, Baleka Mbete and Lumka Yengeni tolerating his return to work.

They have prepared a place for Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the head of the NPA, and he is no doubt anxious to get down to some genuinely political prosecuting decisions.

Apologists for Motlanthe might argue that he has limited room for manoeuvre, deployed by the ANC to keep the chair warm for Zuma, and the object of intense suspicion from those who think he would like to keep it.

That simply is not good enough. The buck stops with the president, and ours should be ashamed of himself.