Billions in air in missile deal

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

Concerns are being raised in parliament over a multibillion-rand missile defence system bought from Thales, a company allegedly involved in arms deal corruption.

DA spokesman Eddie Trent yesterday said the short-range ground-to-air system, known as "Project Guardian" could cost taxpayers between R5billion in the short term and R20billion in the long term.

"The suppliers of the system are Denel and Thales Air Defence. Denel is allegedly behind schedule as a result of problems with local sub-suppliers and other issues," said Trent.

He said the project was expected to finish in November 2009, a total of 54 months past the original deadline, and that Denel was expected to pay a penalty of R80million for this delay.

"In addition, Thales not only flouted the UN's arms embargo against apartheid, but is also internationally seen as an instrument through which French governments have subverted democracy in Africa and elsewhere, and whose agent, Schabir Shaik, has been found guilty of bribing former deputy president Jacob Zuma," said Trent.

He said the DA would be submitting questions to Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota to ask for the justification of such expenditure and to question why the relationship with Thales continues.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question from the DA, Lekota said the "relevant or anticipated" cost is in the region of R1billion.

But, he could provide no further details of future costs because the project was still in the "acquisition study phase".