newritings

December 12, 2008

The South African Update

Arms deal

There is so much. Arms deal being at the centre of them all. And president Motlanthe refused to accede calls for a judicial enquiry into the arms deal. According to his spokesperson Thabo Masebe, said earlier: “Government has always maintained that if anyone has information implicating individuals in the arms deal, then that person should forward such information to law enforcement agencies.”

Meanwhile the Mail and Guardian, in the article “How arms-deal ‘bribes’ were paid” by Stefaans Brümmer and Sam Sole, reveals evidence that implicates British defence giant BAE Systems total more than £115-million — a staggering R1,73-billion at today’s exchange rate for paying so called “commission”.

They disclose:

* How the vast majority of BAE’s commission payments — £103-million — were “covert” and made through a secret front company;
* How the covert payments were made to a series of undisclosed agents — including Fana Hlongwane, who served as special adviser to then defence minister Joe Modise at the time BAE was chosen as preferred bidder;
* How BAE allegedly tried to hide the extent and timing of their relationship with Hlongwane from investigators. The M&G has previously disclosed his receipt of hundreds of millions of rands as a “consultant” to BAE;
* How two highly unusual commission payments were authorised just before South Africa signed the final contracts in December 1999; and
* Details of interventions by Modise and then defence procurement boss Chippy Shaik which advantaged the BAE bid.”

These articles carry extensively from the affidavits which show how BAE set up companies and advisers:

The R1,55-billion that kept ‘advisers’ in the shadows
BAE Systems used “the Red Diamond system” to pay a staggering £103-million (about R1,55-billion) to its covert “advisers” on the South African arms deal, according to an affidavit by British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigator Gary Murphy.

Interestingly they point out that ”the British arms giant set up Red Diamond Trading in 1998 in the British Virgin Isles, a haven of corporate anonymity. Red Diamond’s records were kept in Switzerland.” Various people (named in the text but including the Thatchers) have been implicated thus: “About £15-million (R225-million) to Arstow Commercial Corporation, also in the Virgin Isles. Swiss resident Alexander Roberts, Jersey resident Dr Hugh Thurston and Liechtenstein-based Johannes Matt are involved. Roberts and Thurston are closely connected to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her family, the M&G has established, with Thurston acting as the Thatcher family’s financial adviser. Roberts is understood to have been an associate of Denis Thatcher, Margaret’s late husband.”

The court cases
Zuma

Round one

The South African political scene is heating up, and within a few dramatic days (September) saw South Africa’s African National Congress recall its mandated representative – or the unceremonious removal of president Mbeki from office of the presidency. Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu was reportedly saddened by this and called it unnecessary, whilst others hailed it as a move towards a more accountable democracy.

Tutu’s reaction shocked many, because he said it smacked of settling scores (“the way of retribution leads to a banana republic“) from the time of the African National Congress’ national conference held at Polokwane in December 2007. He also called for changes to the constitution so that direct elections could be held.

The impetus for Mbeki’s ousting was the ruling in the high court by Judge Chris Nicholson relating to the arms deal prosecution of Jacob Zuma. The African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a news conference that the “ANC decided to recall the President of the Republic before his term of office expires.” And added “our decision has been communicated to him. (…) We decided to take this decision as an effort to heal and reunite the ANC.”

During his judgment, the judge Nicholson stated that accusations of a conspiracy against Zuma were not far-fetched. The judge questioned the role of Mbeki, the justice minister and the National Prosecuting Authority. (Read more about the judgment here)

“It has profound impact on the legal system. It will also have a serious impact on the affairs of the African National Congress as an organisation,” Mantashe said of the judgment.

“Our movement has been through this trying period and we are determined to heal the rifts that may exist. So everything we have done is an effort to heal our movement, unite it and strengthen it.”

The axing of the president by the ANC’s decision-making National Executive Committee came on the second day of deliberations about the issue by the NEC at Esselen Park, near Kempton Park outside Johannesburg.

Round two

The Cape Argus reported that the next round was likely to go to the NPA and thereby vindicate Mbeki.

Under the heading “Zuma May Be Elected as ‘The Accused’” (2008-11-30, http://www.capeargus.co.za), they write that all “the indications are that ANC President Jacob Zuma will go into next year’s run-up period to the national general elections, and probably even to his inauguration as South Africa’s president, as “an accused person”.

A full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) said on Friday it would deliver judgment on January 12 (2009) on the appeal by the National Prosecuting Authority against the September 12 judgment by Judge Chris Nicholson in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

But, given the attitude and line of questioning of the lead SCA judges to Zuma’s case, presented by Kemp J Kemp SC, the proverbial writing seemed to be on the wall and – immediately after spending the day in court – Zuma told a few thousand supporters congregated outside the SCA that it looked as though he was headed “from Bloemfontein to Braamfontein” in Johannesburg, where the Constitutional Court is situated and where he will appeal the SCA judgment if it goes against him.”

They report that the five SCA judges – Louis Harms, acting deputy president of the SCA, Ian Farlam, Azar Cachalia, Nathan Poonan, and Mandisa Maya – seemed to like what they were hearing from Wim Trengove SC, for the NPA, who argued that the NPA had no obligation in terms of law to allow Zuma representations, whilst some like Harms, Farlam and Cachalia, “grilled” senior advocate Kemp “relentlessly and openly criticised what he had to say.”

According to the Argus, “Harms, Farlam and Cachalia were especially critical of Kemp’s contention that the various national directors of public prosecutions (Bulelani Ngcuka, Vusi Pikoli, and Mokotedi Mpshe) had “created a legitimate expectation” that Zuma would be allowed to make representations.

Cachalia said to Kemp: “In effect you are saying you wanted the state to disclose their whole case to you. You wanted a trial by representation.”

Read full story.

Ginwala commission

Frene Ginwala commission results have not made many happy. It has criticised Vusi Pikoli but found him competent to do his work. In handing the final decision to the president, Motlanthe, has recommended Pikoli be fired. “I’ve taken this decision with a clear conscience,” President Kgalema Motlanthe told journalists at a briefing in Pretoria.

Reactions from various parties predictably suggested that Motlanthe has “failed the first real test of his presidency”  (Democratic Alliance, DA). “It’s a cover up” (various parties including the DA). Interestingly the UDM (United Democratic Movement) leader Bantu Holomisa said it had to be remembered that Pikoli was the person who reinstituted corruption charges against Zuma. “Clearly he is being punished for not delivering a verdict that suits the palace,” he said.

Pikoli’s attorney Aslam Moosajee said Pikoli was “obviously very disappointed. “We are busy digesting all of this and will decide our next move” (read full story).

Go back to Contents of Mwalimu (Vol 1.3/4)

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