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DA: Statement by Helen Zille, Democratic Alliance leader, on the shutting down of the arms deal probe (22/10/2010)

22nd October 2010

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/ MEDIA STATEMENT / The content on this page is not written by Polity.org.za, but is supplied by third parties. This content does not constitute news reporting by Polity.org.za.

This week the Hawks announced they were shutting down the Arms Deal investigation. There was no public outcry. There comes a point when a country starts to suffer from scandal fatigue. Corrupt governments (especially those whose prospects of re-election are secure) know that most corruption scandals eventually fizzle out if the cover-up can be dragged out long enough. The Arms Deal is a case in point. The Hawks' announcement is merely the latest in a series of Arms Deal cover-ups that span an entire decade. 
 
An opposition party cannot afford the luxury of succumbing to scandal fatigue. We will continue digging and we believe that eventually, the truth will out. We are, for example, pursuing a court challenge against the National Prosecuting Authority's decision to withdraw corruption charges against President Zuma. The way in which President Zuma's legal team has used every possible delaying tactic over the past decade to prevent the substantive case from being tested in a competent court, is a scandal in its own right. The abuse of the criminal justice system in the Arms Deal cover-up will do even more damage to our country's constitutional democracy than the corruption itself.
 
As the Hawks drop this case, it is important to reflect on what happened over the past decade and ask ourselves a few questions. How did the ANC manage to cover-up such a massive corruption scandal, involving so many individuals, for so long, and get away with it? Why have all the mechanisms of our constitutional democracy - the media, the courts, the opposition - failed to do more than scratch the surface of this matter? What does this say about our ability to prevent the slide into the corrupt and criminal state that has destroyed so many other countries on our continent?
 
I believe the root cause of the rot, and the cover-up, can be summarized in two words: cadre deployment. The key lesson of our continent over the past half century is that this form of political patronage is incompatible with constitutional democracy. Indeed, it is the root cause of the failed state.

The ANC has openly explained that it deploys its "cadres" into "strategic positions" in all institutions of state to place the party's interests first. A deployed cadre's primary responsibility is to protect the party and its leaders, not fulfill the constitutional mandate of preventing power abuse. In fact, cadre deployment turns supposedly "independent" state institutions into extensions of the ANC's power abuse. In this way, a corrupt ruling party seeks to turn an independent criminal justice system into a mechanism that will protect its political allies and persecute its opponents.

Looking back over the past decade, it is clear that the Arms Deal corruption was so successfully covered up because, at nearly every step of the way, there was a deployed ANC cadre who was willing to play their part in squashing the investigation. If they were not prepared to do so, they were simply removed, and "re-deployed", bringing their political careers to an end. 
 
Let's go back to the beginning to see how it played out.
 
When allegations of Arms Deal corruption first surfaced, a Joint Investigating Team (JIT) was set up by President Mbeki to investigate. It was significant that the President ignored the recommendation of Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to include the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), headed by an independent Judge, as part of the investigating team.
 
The JIT exonerated government of any wrongdoing, leading to widespread allegations that the report was a whitewash. These suspicions were confirmed when it emerged later that crucial facts and findings were edited out of the final report after the Department of Defence and the Office of the President had directly intervened. Most significantly, whereas the draft JIT report concluded that there were "fundamental flaws" in the procurement process, the final sanitised version concluded: 
 
"No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by the Government...There are therefore no grounds to suggest that the Government's contracting position is flawed."
 
Somewhere along the line, loyal cadres could be counted on to cave in to political pressure to "put the party's interests first". The same could not be said of Judge Willem Heath, which is why Mbeki excluded him from the investigating team in the first place.

Someone else who refused to yield to this pressure was ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, a member of SCOPA. When he insisted that Judge Heath be included in the Joint Investigating Team, he was demoted from his position as head of the ANC study group on SCOPA and instructed not to speak in the committee without permission. Feinstein eventually resigned from Parliament altogether in August 2001. The ANC deployed more pliant cadres to SCOPA to prevent further in-depth scrutiny of the Arms Deal. 

With the lid firmly placed on SCOPA, things went quiet for a while on the Arms Deal front.

The matter resurfaced only when it became a tool in the ANC's growing internal battle between Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. In 2003, the NDPP, Bulelani Ncguka, (an Mbeki appointee and ally) took the decision to prosecute Jacob Zuma's "financial adviser" Schabir Shaik.
 
Shaik was found guilty of corruption, leading the trail directly to Jacob Zuma. The war was then on between the "deployed cadres" who supported different factions within the ANC.

This is the lens through which one must analyse the battle to prosecute Jacob Zuma, and his counter strategy to get off the hook. During this process Zuma himself made the point that, if he was selectively prosecuted, he would implicate others, and bring down the ANC's whole pack of cards. 

In the context of this raging battle, it was instructive to see what happened to "deployees" who refused to put the Party's factional interests ahead of their constitutional responsibilities. The clearest example is Vusi Pikoli (who replaced Bulelani Ncguka as the National Director of Public Prosecutions). Pikoli managed to defy instructions from the leaders of both factions of the ANC as he sought to undertake his constitutional responsibility without fear or favour.

When Pikoli pressed charges against President Mbeki's ally Jackie Selebi, Mbeki set up the Ginwala Commission to investigate whether Pikoli was fit and proper to hold office. Before Ginwala reported her findings, the winds of political change had blown through the ANC and President Mbeki had been replaced by acting President Kgalema Motlanthe. Although Ginwala found that Pikoli was actually fit and proper to hold office, Motlanthe seized on a technical aspect of her report and fired Pikoli anyway. Pikoli had, after all, decided to prosecute Jacob Zuma. It was equally essential for the Zuma faction of the ANC to stop Pikoli in his tracks. Pikoli's successor Mokotedi Mpshe duly dropped charges against Zuma for reasons that defy rational analysis. 
 
Until the truth is uncovered, the Arms Deal will remain a festering sore on our body politic. Not just because of the scale of the corruption involved, but because of the way that constitutional institutions were manipulated and politicised through cadre deployment, with profound and lasting implications. In fact, through cadre deployment, the ANC has fundamentally undermined our constitution without changing a single word of it.
 
Unfortunately there are still many people who do not get it.
 
This week a group of about 30 "lawyers and activists" sprang to the defence of Janet Love, who was recently "deployed" by the ANC from its National Executive Committee to the Human Rights Commission. This move was described by ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe himself, as a "deployment" for "strategic" reasons. 

I criticized this move, describing the deployment of various ANC "cadres" (including former MPs) as a threat to the independence of Chapter 9 Institutions including the Human Rights Commission. 

The group of "lawyers and activists" singled out Janet Love for protection, arguing that she has a sterling record as a human rights lawyer and would never kowtow to the ANC.
 
That may be so, but it misses the point entirely. 

Deployed cadres have a DUTY to promote the interests of the dominant faction in the ANC in whatever institution they are deployed to. If they do not, they are soon "re-deployed". The practice of "cadre deployment" has destroyed public confidence in any institution staffed by people that the ANC itself describes as strategic "deployees". 

Perhaps the lawyers and activists might like to undertake a closer study of what happened to key people who once served on the Human Rights Commission (both staff and commissioners) who had the guts to stand up to the ANC. We have already begun this study, and the results are revealing, to say the least. 

An isolated "cadre" here and there who believes her duty to the Constitution comes first, does not in any way lessen the threat the "cadre deployment" poses to our democracy.

 

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