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New case might force Zuma's defence to call Mbeki as witness

By unknown | Jan 03, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

The National Prosecuting Authority's case against ANC president Jacob Zuma has the potential of blowing the lid on the irregularities linked to the government's controversial multibillion-arms deal.

Zuma is to appear in the Pietermaritzburg high court on August 14 to face 16 charges, including 12 counts of fraud, two of corruption, one of racketeering and one of money laundering. Zuma is also accused of having received a R500000 bribe from a company that had an interest in the arms deal.

The NPA has lined up 218 witnesses including former head of special investigations unit Judge Willem Heath, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, Independent Democrats' leader Patricia de Lille and Richard Young who contested the exclusion of his company C2I2 from one of the arms deal's sub-contracts.

Heath was excluded from an investigation about irregularities into the arms deal instituted by the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts in 1999. This was despite the fact that Heath had the legal powers to cancel contracts found to be corrupt. Instead, the investigation was carried out by the Auditor-General Shauket Fakie, Public Protector Selby Baqwa and the NPA's then head Bulelani Ngcuka.

All these agencies concluded that there were no indications of improper behaviour on the part of government in the arms deal.

In his book After the Party Feinstein accuses President Thabo Mbeki of having pressured the auditor-general to change a report criticising the estimated R18billion deal to buy planes from BAE as "flawed".

Documents that Young used in the courts to wrestle information from Fakie showed the extent to which the draft reports (given to Mbeki and his cabinet) appeared to have been sanitised and watered down in the final published report.

In 1999 De Lille moved for a motion in parliament calling for a commission of inquiry into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the arms deal.

De Lille named senior ANC officials who allegedly received kick-backs from the arms deal containing specific allegations of the amounts each individual had allegedly received and exactly who offered them.

Yesterday political analyst Steve Friedman said "depending on the route the trial takes, the case could open up the belly of the arms deal".

Friedman also pointed out that previously Zuma had indicated that he had evidence linking some government officials to the arms deal saga. His defence has previously indicated that it could call Mbeki as a witness.


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