“Arms Deal” controversy “will not be allowed to simply fade away”: DA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says the decade-old controversy around the government’s R47billion Strategic Defence Package (SDP) “will not be allowed to simply fade away.”
The party’s senior member on Parliaments Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Eddie Trent, over the weekend welcomed raids conducted by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on various people and premises last week.
Trent however chided that these “should have taken place eight years ago when well-founded allegations of corruption” had already been made against various officials and companies involved in the programme that saw South Africa acquire 50 fighter aircraft, 30 helicopters, four frigates and three submarines.  
“The DA welcomes any initiative that will ultimately lead to the matter of the Arms Deal being resolved or an independent commission of enquiry being instituted,” Trent said in a statement.
“The fact that raids are taking place now either implies that the earlier investigations into the Arms Deal were not thorough enough or else that new evidence has come to light.”
Trent also welcomed the fact that the NPA is cooperating with the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office, “which is more than what occurred with the German public prosecution’s own attempt to work with South Africa.”
He says there are a number of initiatives currently underway in relation to the SDP, “which the DA will continue to be involved in. It can be safely said that the matter of the Arms Deal will not be allowed to simply fade away.”
“The DA’s own initiative with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) has yielded some positive results already.
“I have received a number of confidential submissions from members of the public in response to my request. I will be taking these submissions up with SCOPA as soon as possible.

“I have also been encouraging SCOPA’s chairperson to set aside some time in January 2009 to deal with the submissions we have received.”

SCOPA earlier this year resolved to reopen its probe into alleged irregularities surrounding the SDP and President Kgalema Motlanthe, in his first television interview after asuming office in September, said he would call into life a judicial investigation if warranted by SCOPA’s findings.    

SDP critics including CCII CEO Richard Young say previous SCOPA probes and government investigations were manipulated by former President Thabo Mbeki and some of his Cabinet to conceal irregularities and suspected wrongdoing. 

Proponents of the deal say many critics are fanning the controversy to grind an axe or promote their own agenda. The charge is particlarly pertinent to political parties as campaigning for next year’ general election, now expected in March, gets underway.