/ 12 June 2014

Arms deal commission summons Chippy Shaik

From left: Mo
From left: Mo

Shamin “Chippy” Shaik and Fana Hlongwane have been subpoenaed to testify during phase two of the arms procurement commission, the inquiry’s spokesperson, William Baloyi, confirmed this week. 

The two are central to the litany of corruption allegations surrounding the arms deal. Neither has faced criminal charges, although Hlongwane was under investigation by British authorities until 2010.

Shaik is brother to Jacob Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of fraud. 

Chippy Shaik’s role came under scrutiny at the commission this week, and he was flagged in an internal compliance report compiled by Ferro staal, which supplied the submarines, as having been “close” to the German arms company. 

Phase two of the commission, which is expected to start at the end of July, deals with the fraud and corruption allegations, making Shaik and Hlongwane’s appearance on the witness list significant. Phase one dealt with the utilisation of the arms purchases and the rationale behind the deal.

Former president Thabo Mbeki is the final witness to testify during phase one. He was due to give evidence this week but the commission rescheduled his testimony following the death of his mother, Epainette, on June 7. A final date for his testimony is yet to be announced.

Shaky credibility
News that Shaik and Hlongwane will be called as witnesses is a boon to the commission’s shaky credibility. Phase two was initially set to hear evidence from whistle blowers and arms deal “critics”. It was unclear whether any of those named in the reports written by the critics would be called to answer for themselves. 

Hlongwane was the adviser to former defence minister Joe Modise, who died in 2001. This week, Modise’s then deputy, Ronnie Kasrils, testified but was unable to account for Modise’s decisions. 

Hlongwane was central to an investigation conducted by the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which came to an end in December 2010 after British Aerospace Systems (BAe) paid fines related to a Tanzanian deal. 

South Africa bought 24 lead-in fighter trainer Hawk jets from BAe Systems in a highly controversial part of the arms deal. 

Leaked documents from the SFO investigation, published in the Mail & Guardian in 2011, revealed that it was investigating Hlongwane’s alleged central role in more than R1-billion in “commissions” paid to South African officials to secure jet contracts.

The Hawk was the more expensive option but Modise reportedly instructed the team evaluating BAe’s bid to adopt a “visionary approach” that would see cost set aside as a qualifier. 

This week, Kasrils was presented with two sets of minutes from a meeting in August 1998, in which it was recommended to the Cabinet that the Hawk should be bought. 

One set, which Kasrils said is the correct version, was drawn up by Chippy Shaik, as the department of defence’s chief of acquisitions. Another set was drawn up by an Armscor general manager, Heinrich de Waal Esterhuyse, and records that the government should investigate the Hawk contract and its costs.

This week, former finance minister Trevor Manuel underwent cross-examination and vigorously defended the cost of the arms deal. 

But Pippa Green, in her biography of Manuel, Choice Not Fate, and former Democratic Alliance MP Raenette Taljaard, in her book Up in Arms, recorded that treasury officials objected to the spending, particularly on the Hawk and Gripen contracts. They repeatedly expressed their “discomfort” and there were talks to reduce the number of Gripen fighter jets to be bought. 

“Chippy went berserk,” one treasury official told Green. “He absolutely went apoplectic.”