The R30m allegedly paid to President Mbeki in relation to the R8-billion German submarine contract -- as reported in the Sunday Times -- can only have been a small part of the commissions/bribes paid to various parties in relation to that contract.
Consider this: British investigators have estimated that BAe's representatives in South Africa, Richard Charter (who died not long thereafter while canoeing on the Orange River) and Basil Hersov (who can't remember who he distributed the money to) were involved in laundering an estimated R1.8-billion in commission within weeks of the aircraft deals being signed in 1999.
And what of the strange changes in the corvette bids -- and the French connection involving Mbeki's visits to and from the directors of Thompsons -- later Thales, now Thint the ones he had so conveniently forgotten about? And then there were those fateful words attributed to Tony Yengeni -- and never denied -- as he secretly rallied the forces in December 2000 to close down the arms deal investigations that were to have been launched by parliament's select committee on public accounts (SCOPA): "I and others have money in our bank accounts that we can't explain. I don't intend to explain it to anyone, either. We deserve it."
A few things emerge from all of this: Firstly, the ANC has a problem: the vast majority of its supporters cannot afford food, let alone fund a political party. So to fund its infrastructure and campaigns, the party has had to look to funders it would rather not identify.
Who demand their pound of flesh in profit or policy changes.
That way we end up paying R50-billion-plus for inappropriate defence equipment in order to provide the party with perhaps half a billion in funding. (Assuming the other half billion-plus went to the suits.)
Surely there are more rational and less corrupting ways of funding the democratic process? As we have suggested before: taxpayers would surely rather have paid the party R1 billion directly as, say, a statutory election allowance -- and kept the other R49 billion in change.
Then there's the prosecution of Jacob Zuma: in the light of the latest developments, it does look increasingly like it's been used as a red herring -- most successfully up till now -- to distract the media and the public from the bigger unhappy picture. I don't raise this in defence of Zuma: Its natural for politicians to use any dirt that comes to hand against their competitors. Its also the way democracy gets to benefit; as the saying goes: when thieves fall out the truth will likely out, too.
But there is potential for even greater benefit in what might otherwise look like a situation dangerously out of control: The NPA should offer both Mbeki and Zuma indemnity from prosecution in exchange for their evidence to prosecute the corruptors. If it is proven the deals were corruptly achieved, they could be held to be invalid, absolving South Africa of the appalling debt. (We might have to return the equipment -- which we didn't need or want anyway.) The criminal suppliers and their political sponsors in Europe would be taught a lesson they won't quickly forget. Both Mbeki and Zuma could redeem themselves with one stroke and still go down in history as (fallible men) who did great things for their country. -- The Editor
Quotes to remember:
You cannot survive without bribing an official in South Africa. -- Essop Pahad, minister in charge of the presidents office.
Sitting in government there are sophisticated thieves continually seeking ways to misdirect public resources away from the people to themselves. -- President Thabo Mbeki.
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