Open letter to President Mbeki by Bantu Holomisa re

President T Mbeki
Private Bag X1000

Dear Sir

There is no doubt that the revelations of irregularities in the transactions occasioned by the multi-billion arms procurement deal involving the Department of Defence (DoD) and others, and the shadow of doubt cast over the credibility and commitment of the Executive to allow the unfettered and wholly transparent investigation of these disturbing allegations have put the President's integrity and commitment to clean governance under a severe test.

There are strong perceptions and suspicions of a cover-up as a result of the ruling party's public utterances and the unmistakable hostility of some Government Ministers towards the Heath Special Investigating Unit (Heath SIU) which they would prefer to be excluded from the probe as it is presently constituted.

This sorry tale has put the international spotlight on the South African government whose conduct in dealing with this arms procurement saga will greatly influence the Country's and the region's profile as an investment destination. The national confidence in the government of the day is precariously balanced on the Executive's, in particular, the President's demonstration of unwavering leadership and ruthless up-rooting of corruption in government.

The UDM is convinced and agrees with those who insist that the Heath SIU should be allowed to carry out its mandate and join the investigation with other agencies as recommended, notwithstanding, the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

Our reasons for holding this view are that, among the agencies that have been identified by Parliament to probe the arms deal, the Heath SIU enjoys wide powers beyond those held by the other agencies and therefore has the capacity to dig up the truth. In addition the Unit has a good track record in this field. The expertise of the Heath SIU, the Offices of the Public Protector, the Auditor-General, Investigating Directorate of Serious Economic Offences and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) complement each other and therefore the exclusion of any one of them would compromise the investigation.
In the event that the Heath SIU is excluded (seeing that the Minister of Justice has so recommended) the President is under a compelling obligation to establish a Judicial Commission in terms of the law, that will be endowed with the powers, expertise and commitment that have characterised the Heath SIU in order to ensure that a credible investigation is carried out.

Without such a Commission, the remaining state agencies lack the capacity to carry out the mandate delegated by Parliament. Some people may argue that a Judicial Commission is costly. It is therefore suggested that the President institutes a Preliminary Investigation (PI) headed by a retired judge of a chief magistrate, working closely with independent forensic auditors as recommended by the Auditor-General, to determine the depth of the corruption. This would emerge from a PI report.

It is early days for your Ministers to dismiss the allegations of corruption in the arms procurement deal. Should the PI establish a prima-facie evidence that there are irregularities in the transactions, then there is a weighty obligation on the part of the President, which you cannot ignore, to authorise a credible Judicial Commission to scrupulously probe the deal.

In consideration of the fact that the Executive is under the national- and international spotlight on the subject of the allegations on the irregularities attendant to the arms procurement transactions the Preliminary Investigations team should include the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) which has recommended the probe. This measure would lend credibility to the PI and the Executive's commitment to transparency and clarification of the shady areas in the deal. The PI should be given powers to co-opt into it people with the requisite expertise, including people from the Heat SIU.

There is a perception that the Heath SIU was enthusiastically established to probe perceived corruption by former homeland leaders. Ironically some of these regimes were exonerated by the probe, while incidents of gross corruption in administrations uncovered by the Heath SIU after the demise of the Homeland Era.

It is therefore important Mr President that the public is not persuaded to believe that the Heath SIU is welcome as long as it does not investigate the current government.

Should you accede to the route of a Preliminary Investigation, SCOPA (and not the Executive which is the object of the probe) should be empowered to interview a short list of people with the required expertise to carry out the investigation. I have no doubt that this gesture would calm the political turbulence sparked off by these revelations, and create a favourable climate for an objective investigation.

Yours sincerely
HB Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement
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