Dear Reader: Still going strong

Still going strong

This month, can you believe it, Noseweek is 20 years old! We mark the occasion with a dozen celebratory pages in which we delve into our history, re-look at our unique covers, chortle at our well-wishers and most especially honour our readers who – in a very real sense – are our partners in the enterprise. Nowhere is that better reflected than on our letters’ pages. We wish we could have squeezed in more readers’ letters from way-back-when than the small selection we made, reflecting stories Noseweek ran at the time (click here for the pdf).

Please don’t stop writing to, and reading Noseweek – whether it be in print or online – and we’ll keep publishing. It’s a deal!


Finally, rapidly, all the pieces of the Arms Deal corruption puzzle are coming together. Before long, all the guilty – from top members of the cabinet to the bottom feeders – will have been named. It’s been a long and often tedious journey that began shortly after New Year 1995.

On the 20th of May 1995, veteran investigator and political correspondent Jean le May – then, already in retirement and she has since died – wrote a report in the Weekend Argus that deserves to be repeated here in full:

“A political row is brewing over the role of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in international tenders for new corvettes for the South African Navy.

“Cabinet Secretary Professor Jakes Gerwel said that at a cabinet meeting this week Minister of Defence Joe Modise asked for the decision on new corvettes [for the SA Navy] to be held over.

“Ministry sources confirmed that tenders had been re-opened to accept late bids from Germany, France and Denmark and that the [previously announced] short-list of two – Scotland’s Yarrow Shipyard and Spain’s Bazan Shipyard – had been shelved.

“Armscor had announced on December 24 [1994] that [only the] tenders from Yarrow and Bazan would be considered in the next round of evaluations. It said Frigate Consortium (a German consortium involving the Blohm and Voss shipyard and the industrial giant Thyssen), Svenborg Shipyard of Denmark, and DCNI of France had been eliminated.

“However, Weekend Argus has now established that during his visit to Germany between January 6 and January 14  [scarcely two weeks after that Armscor announcement] Mbeki told German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel and directors of the German consortium that ‘the race was still open’.

“Douglas Gibson MP, Democratic Party spokesman on defence, told Weekend Argus that ‘on the face of it, it appears that there has been some political interference’. Mbeki should be careful to avoid giving the impression that South Africa is a banana republic when it comes to international tenders, he said.

“Mark Wiley, National Party spokesman on defence, said that ‘a dangerous precedent is being created with politicians interfering improperly in the state tendering process’.”

Read today, after the Mail & Guardian’s June 14 disclosure of a R6m bribe agreement concluded in that same year – 1995 – by the German corvette consortium and senior ANC MP Tony Yengeni, Jean le May’s Weekend Argus report sounds like the overture to one of those interminable operas by 19th century German composer Richard Wagner: Le May’s story sets the scene and introduces some of the main themes for a battle of heroic and legendary proportions that is to follow; one that ends with fallen gods, much wailing, and a country and a liberation movement in ruins.

Wagner’s operas are known for their high drama and the fact that they carry on for up to five hours at a stretch. The Arms Deal drama has gone on for 18 years and, it seems, the final, terrible climax is only now just approaching.

In April 2001, six years after Le May wrote her piece, Noseweek did its own bit of prophetic reporting when it revealed what the self-same Yengeni had said at a secret meeting held days after Christmas in 2000. See Yengeni urged mates to keep mum in this issue and be amazed.

And then of course there was our famous Arms Deal organogram that had the name Thabo Mbeki at the top of the pyramid. Quite logical, really. But Mbeki’s instant over-reaction said more.

Now read our detailed further report on the German police investigation in this issue - At last: Arms Deal secrets bubble to surface.  Join the dots and you’ll know where the bribe money went. The Editor


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