Minister rejects inquiry

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Newly appointed Defence Minister Charles Nqakula has pooh-poohed calls for a commission to probe the controversial arms deal.

"People who want an inquiry must put facts on the table that need to be queried," he told members of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Friday in Durban.

"I have heard debates and arguments but facts are not there. At government level I must say that everything the government did was above board, so until people put facts before us there won't be a commission on the subject."

Leaders of opposition parties, especially Helen Zille's Democratic Alliance, Patricia de Lille's Independent Democrats and Bantu Holomisa's UDM, have been calling for a commission of inquiry to probe the arms deal.

The deal led to corruption and fraud charges being laid against ANC president Jacob Zuma, and resulted in fraud convictions for his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, and ANC heavyweight Tony Yengeni.

Nqakula was questioned about two paramilitary camps that have been set up in Ulundi and Eshowe.

"Our constitution does not allow the establishments of any paramilitary camps and those doing it will be arrested," the minister said.

Nqakula also said the government was implementing a programme to keep skilled personnel, who were being recruited by countries such as Australia, in the armed forces.

"There's a high level of poaching and recruitment of our members, and unfortunately the country cannot do much about that because we cannot afford to pay them sufficiently."

Nqakula said the military had arranged training at tertiary institutions to produce specialists.

"We will also be calling experienced and retired members to come on board and assist with their skills where we have critical shortages," he said.