Another arms deal enquiry?

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President Jacob Zuma’s office says there may be another probe into the still-controversial 1999 R47.4-billion Strategic Defence Package, but adds that it is too early to make a decision one way or another.

Zuma was responding in writing to a written question posed by the opposition Democratic Alliance on whether he would appoint an “independent commission of inquiry, headed by a retired judge, to investigate any abuse of power and/or corruption and/or any other irregularities during the arms deal.”

His office responded that the “President requires some time to consider work that has already been done and that which is currently underway at a government level and also by Parliament.

“In light of these processes that are underway we would not like to pre-empt the outcome. It will only be possible to determine whether an inquiry is warranted or not after all facts before him are carefully and objectively studied.

“This will happen as soon as Parliament and the National Prosecuting Authority conclude their work on the matter. The President will at that point make public his decision which will be shared with all interested parties,” the response read.

The DA has been trying for some years to give allegations surrounding the deal an airing, but with limited success.

DA encouraged

DA Parliamentary leader Athol Trollip says the party is “encouraged by Zuma`s response.” Zuma was himself until earlier this year facing charges of corruption related to the SDP.

Trollip says Zuma`s response “is a welcome deviation from the stance taken by former President Mbeki and former President Motlanthe who both rebuffed all requests to appoint such an Inquiry.

“It is our sincere hope that his response is not simply empty rhetoric, but a sign of real commitment to fighting and exposing corruption,” he added.

“That said, there are a few problems with the President`s response. Chief among these is his contention that ‘all the facts` need to be presented to him before he reaches a conclusion.

“Given that the very purpose of a Commission of Inquiry is to uncover all the facts, it is unfeasible to expect them all to be presented to the President beforehand. Indeed, that would defeat the very purpose of such an Inquiry in the first place, Trollip says.

“Further, there is no shortage of evidence as things stand, all of which strongly suggests the need for such an Inquiry. It is no longer the time to consider what evidence is available, but to weigh up the existing evidence and pursue leads by subpoenaing witnesses.

“Finally, neither the NPA, nor Parliament has the ability to carry out an investigation to the extent or depth that a formal Commission of Inquiry can.”

Trollip says others calling for an Inquiry include Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former president FW de Klerk, an Independent Panel who were commissioned to assess Parliament; and the Pietermaritzburg High Court its ruling of September 12 last year. The ruling related to Zuma`s alleged involvement in SDP corruption.

 

“The DA believes it is time for all those implicated in the arms deal scandal to finally face the full force of the law and we therefore urge President Zuma to do what his predecessors have failed to do in the past which is to appoint a judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by a judge of impeccable reputation and with full powers of subpoena, to fully investigate every aspect of the arms deal,” the DA leader adds.

During his State of the Nation address President Zuma made the following commitment: “working together with all South Africans, we will intensify the fight against crime and corruption.”

Donen Commission of Inquiry

Meanwhile, Zuma has also responded on queries about the report of the Donen Commission of Inquiry into the South African involvement in the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme scandal in Iraq.

An UN probe implicated some South African companies and individuals in abusing the Oil-for-Food Programme and bypassing mandatory sanctions imposed on the government of Saddam Hussein.  

Zuma`s office says the “Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has referred the Donen Commission report to the State Law Advisors for their advice.

“Once the President has received the Minister`s report, he will consider what further action (if any) needs to be taken and whether to make the report public.”

 



Pic: The SA Houses of Parliament