[DEBATE] : Arms Deal: Q&A with Andrew Feinstein
Salim.Vally at wits.ac.za
Thu May 22 03:52:14 BST 2008
Arms deal Q&A
17/04/2008 11:05 - (SA)
Cape Town - The controversial R30bn arms deal was signed in 1999 by the South African government with companies from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Britain, France and South Africa. Amongst the firms supplying weapons were Saab, BAE Systems and Thomson-CSF.
The arms deal has been at the centre of allegations of fraud and corruption at high levels in the government - something it denies. In recent weeks new calls have been made for a judicial inquiry into the multi-billion rand deal after fresh allegations were made in Germany where prosecutors are probing the German consortium that supplied frigates as part of the deal.
Former ANC member of Parliament, Andrew Feinstein <http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=3673> , and the former member of Parliament's public accounts watchdog Scopa, resigned when the party moved to curtail investigations into the arms deal. Feinstein's gave his "insider" account of the arms deal investigation and process in a book called After the Party published by Jonathan Ball <http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=6663> in 2007.
To get some clarity on the current situation around the arms deal and its impact on the ANC and South Africa, News24 put some questions to Feinstein.
Do you think the arms-deal report by the African National Congress national executive committee (NEC) will get to the bottom of the matter?
No, I think that enquiry is purely for internal political purposes in relation to Jacob Zuma <http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=927> and Thabo Mbeki <http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=895> . But at least it is an acknowledgement by the new ANC leadership that the full story on the arms deal hasn't yet been told, despite the President's protestations to the contrary.
In your book you ask for a new independent inquiry into the arms deal. Government and President Mbeki will respond that two inquiries have found no corruption in the primary arms deal. Why have another inquiry?
There has only been one inquiry, which was severely compromised. As I argue in the book the investigation was neutered by ensuring the ANC in Parliament limited the scope of it as far as possible, and didn't question the superficial nature of it when it was concluded; the one truly independent investigator (Judge Heath) was excluded from the inquiry; the remaining investigators were instructed as to what and whom they could and could not investigate; and their final report was significantly edited on instruction from the Executive to remove even mild criticism of the cabinet. In addition, they failed to investigate the main corruption allegations which had been outlined by the Public Accounts Committee. So the need for a full, unfettered inquiry is extremely important.
It is being alleged that the ANC directly benefited from the arms deal. If so, what are the chances that an ANC government will reopen the investigation into the deal?
I think the chances are slim. However, if the new leadership of the ANC is serious about a moral regeneration of the party and the country, a good starting point would be to establish such an investigation.
What are your thoughts around some kind of amnesty around this issue?
I think an amnesty should only be considered with three non-negotiable conditions:
1. that it is in return for full disclosure, which implies some sort of investigative process by the body concerned
2. that people who receive amnesty leave public office permanently
3. that any ill-gotten gains are paid back to the fiscus
Do you think Jacob Zuma is being made a scapegoat by some in the ruling party for the alleged corruption in the arms deal?
I think he was involved in corruption relating to the deal, albeit on a small scale. Many others were involved far more significantly. And they should be investigated and prosecuted. But the fact that they haven't yet been, doesn't minimise Zuma or Schabir Shaik <http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/Pages/profilefull.aspx?IndID=6333> 's transgressions. All of those who behaved inappropriately should suffer the consequences of their actions.
Is it not time to put this whole arms deal business behind us and look toward the future?
Yes, but the only way a country can do that without something similar being repeated in the future, is to know what happened, deal with those who transgressed and then move on having sent a clear message that this sort of corruption and undermining of state institutions is not acceptable in our democracy. If we move on without addressing this meaningfully, South Africa will be an open house for corruption and our democracy will be permanently tarnished.
You say in your book that the ANC lost its "moral compass" in 2007. What are your expectations for the future and specifically the future path of the ruling party?
I believe that we need to move beyond the last few years of tawdry politics and to do that I suggest both Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma need to be removed from the ANC's and the country's political leadership. I believe there is a good chance of that happening by May of next year, at which point the prospects for the country will improve dramatically. I see shoots of the traditional, values-driven ANC emerging from some people in the new leadership. If this is backed by action I think the chances of the ANC regenerating itself are good and that would have a very positive impact on the country.
Were you not a bit naïve to expect the Mandela years of "hope and principle" in politics to continue? Wasn't it inevitable that the South African political scene would return to the world of real politics once the 1994 honeymoon wore off?
I think I was, and remain, deeply idealistic. Perhaps that is naive. But it is only if we strive for what the whole country deserves that we have any possibility of achieving honest, just and good governance that serves the needs of all in South Africa, especially the poorest. Given our remarkable transition and the sacrifices that so many made, we deserve to lead the world on matters of reconciliation, cosmopolitanism and ethics, as we did for just over four years. Sadly, we then very quickly conformed to global "politics-as-usual", which are pretty depressing. If we accept that that is our lot and politics can never be more high-minded or accountable than they currently are, I think we become passive recipients of the will of the ruling elite. I believe, rather, in an active citizenship that demands our leaders serve with integrity and principle and are accountable to those who elected them.
You seem to still be involved with "fighting" the arms deal from the UK. Can you tell us a bit more about your latest efforts there?
I continue to interact with the investigation in the UK into the SA deal but also focus on the broader arms industry and its undermining of accountable democracy around the world. Most recent developments are that the British HIgh Court has ruled unlawful Tony Blair's decision in late 2006 to close down the investigation into the world's largest, and probably most corrupt arms deal, between the UK and Saudi Arabia worth £48bn and in which bribes of over £1bn were allegedly paid. Gordon Brown is now attempting to change the law so that it would be possible for him to close down such investigations "legally".
Will you ever return to politics? Would you ever join an opposition party?
I regard myself as still involved in politics, but as a writer and an activist rather than a formal politician. I couldn't imagine going back into formal politics but would be interested in setting up anti-corruption watchdogs in SA and elsewhere. I also couldn't imagine joining an opposition party as I had such a strong connection to the ANC which, strangely and despite the criticism from some quarters within the party, I still feel. Also none of the current opposition parties offer a compelling agenda for progressive change in the country.
There is often talk of a "split" in the ANC. Do you think that is likely?
No, I don't. I think if Mbeki had regained the ANC Presidency at Polokwane, Cosatu and the SACP might have considered splitting. Now they feel they are being heard again, so are happy within the alliance. I don't see any other schism that could lead to a split.
What does the future hold for Andrew Feinstein?
I will publish an updated edition of After the Party later in the year and have recently started working on my next book, on the global arms trade and how it undermines accountable democracy. I continue to chair an HIV and AIDS charity in the UK, to co-operate with various arms deal investigations around the world and to write and broadcast about integrity in government. So, for the immediate future my focus is very much on writing and activism.
<html><p><font face = "verdana" size = "0.8" color = "navy">This communication is intended for the addressee only. It is confidential. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately and destroy the original message. You may not copy or disseminate this communication without the permission of the University. Only authorized signatories are competent to enter into agreements on behalf of the University and recipients are thus advised that the content of this message may not be legally binding on the University and may contain the personal views and opinions of the author, which are not necessarily the views and opinions of The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. All agreements between the University and outsiders are subject to South African Law unless the University agrees in writing to the contrary.</font></p></html>
More information about the Debate-list