ID leader alleges more graft in arms deal

This week Independent Democrats' leader Patricia de Lille revealed what seems to be another sad chapter in South Africa's multibillion-rand arms deal.

This week Independent Democrats' leader Patricia de Lille revealed what seems to be another sad chapter in South Africa's multibillion-rand arms deal.

When De Lille stood up in the National Assembly on Tuesday to speak about the controversial arms deal, it was a virtual replay of a scene from eight years ago.

On Friday September 19, 1999 De Lille, then a member of the PAC, made shocking claims of corruption in the arms deal, of bribes, kickbacks and dodgy backroom deals that she claimed tainted the highest government office in the land.

In what has now become known as the "De Lille Dossier", she claimed on that day that senior ANC MPs and party members, in collusion with officials from multinational arms companies, had lied, cheated and stolen from the public purse to enrich themselves.

It appeared to be the ultimate betrayal of the people. Quite a few people in the ruling party leadership, it seemed, had selfishly proclaimed they deserved more compensation for their sacrifices against apartheid than many others.

If in years to come historians look back to that day, they would not be wrong in marking it as the end of the honeymoon for the South African people and the new democratic government.

For those on the left of the political spectrum, who had decried the negotiated settlement with the oppressors, it was further confirmation that the revolution had been sold out.

For others who had given the new leaders the benefit of the doubt since that magical day of April 27, 1994, it was a massive jolt back to reality.

Many of the heroes and respected cadres of the liberation movement had in one fell swoop become ordinary men and women, human beings with failings like the rest of us. Worse still, in the days and years that followed, they would turn out to be criminals.

On Tuesday De Lille alleged that the ANC had received R500000 from German arms company ThyssenKrupp. She claimed that the payment was made into a Swiss bank account in January 1999, a few months before Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota announced the preferred bidders for the strategic arms purchase.

Payments were allegedly also made to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and an organisation linked to Graca Machel, the Foundation for Community Development, which is based in Mozambique.

The allegations were rejected by a furious Lekota, who was present in the Assembly when De Lille made the claims.

The Mandela Children's Fund spokesman Boitumelo Mdwaba also rejected the claims, saying the fund had not received any money from Thyssen-Krupp or "from the arms deal".

But the fund later issued a statement saying that it would check whether it did receive any donation from Thyssen-Krupp.

Machel has yet to respond because she is currently in Mozambique.

De Lille, like she did in 1999, was careful to use her parliamentary privilege to make the claims. This means that she will escape any attempt to prosecute her. Lekota goaded De Lille, saying she should repeat the claims outside of Parliament. It was obvious she would not do so. He also tried to discredit her by claiming she was calling Mandela a crook.

De Lille, in response to Lekota, said that she did give evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority, and that the "De Lille Dossier" had become part of the record in various high courts throughout the country as well as the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court.

Her claims have already resulted in the convictions of former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik, the former financial adviser of ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma.

She said the "failure" of government to probe all the allegations had now resulted in the German and British authorities presenting new evidence.

She said she would never insult Mandela, who she "loves dearly", and that it was the foundation she was targeting, not Mandela's character.

Thyssen-Krupp is currently being probed by German authorities for allegedly bribing officials across the world to get arms deal contracts. Former defence procurement head Shamin "Chippy" Shaik is also suspected by German authorities of allegedly receiving millions in bribes to help the German company win a slice of this country's arms deal package.

De Lille's claims come on the heels of further revelations in a book by former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein of an alleged cover-up of corruption in the deal.

Feinstein was the ANC's leader on the standing committee on public accounts, but was unceremoniously dumped when it became clear that he was digging around too much with then chairman of the committee Gavin Woods, an IFP member.

There is still an awful stink coming from the arms deal. The ANC's poor handling of the affair will stay with them, and South Africa's long-suffering citizens, for many years to come.