Source: Business Report
There was little evidence that former president Thabo Mbeki received any bribes in connection with South Africa’s arms deal worth as much as R70 billion, but there were clear suggestions that he protected former defence minister Joe Modise from public scrutiny, said former standing committee on public accounts member Andrew Feinstein.
Feinstein, a former ANC MP who has written The Shadow World about “the business of war”, told the Cape Town Press Club at the weekend that it was clear that Mbeki had allowed investigations to be carried out against his then deputy president, Jacob Zuma, “because he was a political adversary”, while Modise, who allegedly received millions of dollars in bribes, was protected because he was a political ally.
Feinstein said it did not take a political scientist to work out why the triple inquiry report – by the public protector, the auditor-general and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) – was changed before it was released. It carried a paragraph that expressed some concern about Modise’s role in the arms deal. It was changed to praise the minister’s involvement.
Feinstein, who now lives in London, said it was also intriguing that Willem Heath had been appointed to head the SIU in place of Willie Hofmeyr, who was clearly not as reliable a supporter of the president.
Heath had told Feinstein 10 years ago that there was plenty of evidence of corruption involving the ANC but had gone on to defend Zuma against the arms deal investigations.
Feinstein, who is a lapsed ANC member, said it was also instructive that Zuma was now leading the campaign for an investigation into rulings of the judiciary. The decision by President Zuma to appoint an inquiry into the arms deal was “not a Damascus moment”, he said, but followed ANC Youth League threats to release information about the president’s role in arms deal corruption.
Feinstein said the commission would only have integrity if Zuma was called to testify. It was on the record that his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for fraud and corruption for paying Zuma to further his business interests.
In the book, Feinstein refers to the 783 charges of racketeering, fraud and corruption Zuma faced for receiving payments related to the arms deal through Shaik. Zuma intervened to ensure the businessman won a lucrative subcontract through French company Thomson-CSF, now Thales.
In an encrypted fax, the company agreed to pay Zuma R500 000 a year to further the interests of the company and to protect it from any possible inquiry into its role in the arms deal, Feinstein reported.
Feinstein said it was of utter importance that the judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal should present its report to the public simultaneously to handing it to Zuma so that there was no opportunity to sanitise the report.
He praised Terry Crawford-Browne, the businessman who led the charge to bring the arms deal before another inquiry, for his enormous personal and financial sacrifice.
Referring to Modise, Feinstein said he had intervened to exclude cost as a procurement criterion “on the single largest contract” in democratic South Africa’s history. This referred to the Hawk and Gripen deal.
Noting that most of the Gripens had subsequently been mothballed by the SA Air Force (SAAF), Feinstein said the arms acquisition council had ranked the Hawk last. “Another (shortlist) excluded cost, which gave the Hawk enough points for it to be able to win with a considerable offsets bid.
“The non-costed option, which was the only shortlist considered, kept the Hawk in play when the SAAF had demanded the opposite.”
The SAAF wanted the Aermacchi for trainer aircraft and fighter jets from Daimler-Benz.
Modise had benefited from his intervention by buying up shares in Conlog, a company that benefited from arms deal offsets, Feinstein said.
By Donwald Pressly