readers opposed to arms deal amnesty

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

Individuals or organisations that received kickbacks in the government's controversial multi-billion rand deal must not receive amnesty.

This is the majority view of Sowetan readers who responded to a poll conducted last week.

Of the 2 569 readers who took part in the poll, 57,39 percent said the alleged culprits should not receive amnesty. On the other hand, 32 percent felt those involved should receive amnesty, while 10,61 percent of the votes were spoilt.

Most respondents, 2 569, voted on Sowetan's website, meaning they are relatively middle-class people who have access to the Internet.

Only 160 respondents voted via SMS. Of these, 46,88 percent said there should be no amnesty; while 31,88 percent felt there should be. 21,24 percent of the SMS votes were spoilt.

Sowetan conducted the poll after media reports that discussions about finding a political solution to the arms deal debacle should be conducted widely outside ANC structures.

The reports followed revelations that the corruption charges levelled at ANC president Jacob Zuma were just the tip of the iceberg.

Zuma is accused, among other things, of having received a bribe from French arms manufacturer Thales. The French company was sub-contracted by the German Frigate Consortium (GFC), which won the tender to build four warships for the South African Navy.

The latest allegations of corruption relating to the arms deal are that GFC paid agents who bribed government officials and ANC politicians. The companies are said to have paid an estimated R1,4 billion in commissions and bribes.

Suggestions have been made that President Thabo Mbeki - who chaired the cabinet subcommittee dealing with the arms deal - had personally benefitted from the disbursements or ensured that his party benefitted.

Yesterday political analyst Steve Friedman agreed with Sowetan readers who said there should be no amnesty.

He said the call for amnesty was a move by politicians to protect each other.

Friedman said not granting amnesty would allow Zuma, during his trial, to reveal the involvement of other government officials in the arms debacle.

Zuma has indicated he might call Mbeki to testify in his case.

Those in favour of amnesty have argued that there could be civil or social unrest if, for example, Zuma's case goes ahead. They added that giving amnesty would far outweigh the result of unrest.