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Andrew Feinstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My Response to ANC Today

The response to After the Party has been extraordinary. Way beyond my expectations. Thanks so much to all who’ve bought and read the book for the support.

The on-going media coverage, in SA and abroad, has been great, with the unsurprising exception of ANC Today which attacked me, twice (see esp. “The Truth Will Prevail!”), by attacking journalists who wrote about the book. Bizarrely they denied me the right to respond by claiming I had abandoned the ANC, despite the fact that the President’s spokesperson had publicly reminded me a fortnight previously that as an ANC member I should express my views about the upcoming ANC election “in my branch” – !

ANC Today‘s statements on the arms deal were a litany of evasions, ignorance and downright deceit. I responded in the Sunday Times – a piece I’ve republished here; see below – but was saddened that I had been denied the right to respond directly to fellow ANC members.

The febrile state of South African politics since my last posting has only reconfirmed my feeling that both Mbeki and Zuma should depart the political stage for a new group of leaders untainted by the last few years. If Zuma wins the ANC’s December election and is, as expected, charged for corruption again, the space might be created for leaders of greater integrity to emerge before the national election in 2009. These might include Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale, Kgalema Motlanthe and others.

In the meantime we scribes have a responsibility to continue to write about what has gone wrong in the ANC and what it will take to restore morality, integrity and accountability to our politics as was the case immediately after 1994.

* * *

“The Solidity of Pure Wind” – ANC Today deaf and blind to the realities of arms deal corruption

First published in the Sunday Times.

On November 16, ANC Today plumbed the depths of dishonest propaganda. President Thabo Mbeki’s mouthpiece claimed that Guardian journalist Chris McGreal, quoting my book After the Party, had written “deliberate lies” and “concocted shameless fabrications … to invent corrupt practices around the so-called arms deal”.

The online voice of the ANC suggested that if McGreal was in possession of facts that disproved the statements it had made, it would publish them in full.

I sent half a dozen e-mails to ANC Today informing it that I have the facts and, as a member of the ANC, would like them published as promised. I received no reply.

So here are the facts (in brief) that counter the extraordinary ignorance or deceit of ANC Today.

  • The first set of ANC Today statements claim it is a lie that Mbeki quashed the investigation into the arms deal or that former ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni led the campaign to shut down the investigation. They insist, instead, that Scopa “conducted its own investigation without any let or hindrance by the ANC or government”.

FACT: On the morning of October 11 2000, Robben Islander Laloo Chiba and I were called into Yengeni’s office and instructed not to proceed with the public investigation. He so intimidated ANC members of Scopa that ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma had to order him to have no contact with committee members. Within weeks, after Zuma changed his tune on our investigation, Yengeni was again intimidating us.

FACT: At a meeting of the ANC’s governance committee in Parliament on November 8 2000, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad — acting, according to him, on the President’s behalf — demanded in my presence that we rescind the resolution establishing the investigation forthwith. When told it was not legally possible, Pahad, Zuma and others told us to neuter the investigation by excluding the country’s premier anti-corruption unit, the Special Investigating Unit .

FACT: The Speaker of Parliament and the chair of the National Council of Provinces insisted on coming to a meeting of the ANC component of Scopa, where they instructed us to release a press statement, which the chair of the NCOP helped draft, stating that the Executive had done no wrong and that the Special Investigating Unit was not required in the investigation.

FACT: At least five senior ANC leaders tried directly to persuade me to end the investigation as it “was not in the country’s interests”. At the behest of the Presidency, according to the statement issued by the ANC, I was removed from Scopa — because I would not agree to neuter the investigation as instructed.

FACT: The “loyal” new members of the committee were made to vote to weaken the investigation. These same members were instructed, in my presence, by the Cabinet ministers being investigated as to what questions to ask them when they appeared before Scopa. The same ministers edited the contents of a subsequent Scopa report .

FACT: The President, unconstitutionally, engaged with the key investigation heads and told them what they could and could not investigate. Specifically, investigators were told they could not look into the role of a shady financier who had helped fund the ANC. When some of the investigators refused to abide by these instructions, they were removed from the investigation.

FACT: Mbeki shamelessly misrepresented the legal opinion he received from advocate Frank Khan in order to justify excluding Judge Willem Heath’s investigating team. Judge Heath was seen as unsympathetic to the ANC.

FACT: The investigators found significant evidence of corruption against ANC National Executive Committee member Joe Modise. They also recommended that ANC corruption in the deal be further investigated. These findings were not included in the investigators’ report, which was significantly edited after it had been shown to the Executive. Damaging paragraphs were excised from the original report and replaced with a blanket exoneration of the Executive.

  • ANC Today claims the BAE Hawk jet trainer satisfied technical requirements and was a logical choice. It claims that it is not true that the air force was strongly opposed to the Hawk’s purchase, that Secretary of Defence Lieutenant-General Pierre Steyn said the requirements were tailored to suit the needs of politicians, that the procurement process was distorted to favour the Hawk, or that the decision was taken at an informal meeting attended by Mbeki, Modise and an official implicated in corruption.

FACT: The Hawk never even made the initial short list because of its technical unsuitability and exorbitant cost. The investigators’ report itself states that it was unfortunate that the procurement process and criteria were amended for this contract, to wit that cost was excluded as a criteria in the middle of the process, a dereliction that in itself should lead to a refusal to authorise expenditure.

FACT: Steyn said in at least two recorded interviews that the air force would accept the Hawk only “if forced to do so by the politicians”. This was publicly reiterated by the head of acquisition projects in the air force. Both these gentlemen were present at an informal meeting in Durban attended by Mbeki, Modise and Chippy Shaik — the government’s head of arms purchases at the time — among others. Shaik contacted them after the meeting to draw up retrospective minutes to formalise the decision made on the Hawk. The two defence force officials have stated publicly that the Hawk and its competition were never properly assessed or considered by the Cabinet.

FACT: A ministers’ committee, chaired by Mbeki, distorted the criteria to ensure that South Africa bought the Hawk — which the air force didn’t want — for two and a half times the price of the jet trainer the air force wanted.

  • ANC Today suggests that the fraud and corruption convictions of Schabir Shaik — Zuma’s one- time financial adviser — had nothing to do with primary contracts in the deal and that there was no evidence that BAE, German and French firms paid bribes to the ANC which helped fund the party’s election campaign.

FACT: As Scopa argued, the primary contracts were corrupted by being dependent on deals done for the sub-contracts . Government officials participated inappropriately in the securing of such arrangements.

FACT: Schabir Shaik’s brother Chippy ensured a primary contract went to a firm that had promised Schabir a sub-contract — which he received .

FACT: Minutes of a meeting exist that show Chippy Shaik solicited a 3-million bribe from the said company. Records exist that trace the payment of 3- million to a company that Chippy identified in the minutes.

FACT: The Shaik court accepted that dividends from the arms deal went to Floryn Investments, a company established to benefit the ANC. A senior member of the ANC NEC informed me that winning contractors had funded the ANC election campaign in 1999. Cabinet ministers Trevor Manuel and Alec Erwin both suggested that “there was shit in the deal, but we wouldn’t find it”.

FACT: The UK’s Serious Fraud Office and German prosecutors are investigating over 200-million of alleged bribes paid in relation to the South African deals, including to Chippy Shaik and Fana Hlongwane, political adviser to Modise. In addition, investigations into other aspects of the arms deal undertaken in South Africa lie dormant in lead investigators’ offices. It is hoped they will still be utilised in future court cases.

ANC Today suggests that if there was any corruption in the deal, it would have come to view by now. I remind them that investigations into international arms deals — which, according to Transparency International, account for 49% of all corruption in all global trade — take, on average, more than a decade to reach prosecution. In the case of the Bofors deal in India, it was 14 years before the truth emerged, leading to convictions and dire political consequences for the Congress movement.

ANC Today attempts, in the tired fashion of the President, to suggest that those of us pursuing the truth in the arms deal are guilty of creating a common “anti-African stereotype”. If they had bothered to check their facts by reading my book, they would have found countless statements to the effect that corruption relating to the arms trade is not unique to South Africa or Africa, but occurs throughout the world. I suggest that the greatest blame for corruption in the trade should be laid at the door of the UK and other “developed” nations.

I apologise for not having the space to go into the full details of my response, which runs to 82 pages, but will happily do so when ANC Today affords me the space as promised. This will include details of Mbeki’s direct intervention in the German Frigate Consortium deal, which ANC Today surprisingly omits to mention.

If anyone in the ANC or beyond contests any of the above, or anything written in my book, they should immediately take legal action so that the court, and the South African public, will for the first time have access to all the relevant documents and witnesses concerning the deal. Given that each fact in the book is either based on something I experienced myself or has been validated by at least two reliable sources, this remains unlikely.

If the deal was squeaky clean, not only was there no need to neuter the investigation, but the South African government should immediately appoint an independent judicial inquiry, completely unfettered by political influence, to examine all the evidence and pronounce on the realities of the deal to the South African public who, after all, are still paying for it to the tune of some R50-billion.

Failure to do so will only reinforce the fact that ANC Today has reconfirmed George Orwell’s contention that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful … and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

 

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