The response by Chippy Shaik to inquiries about the $3million arms deal bribe he allegedly organized himself with the German shipbuilders is instructive. Unlike the bigger fish who threaten interdicts, claims for damages for defamation and other dire litigious consequences when they are confronted with similar allegations, Shaik ventures no more than a meek “no comment”. Of course, nobody (including the authors of three books on the subject) has ever been sued for alleging corruption in the arms deals, nor is this likely to happen as the legal defence of “truth and public interest” will have the effect of opening the whole can of worms. That is a scenario which the bigger fish cannot put up with. It is why Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and the ANC itself have not sued in the wake of a report in August 2008 that they were allegedly involved in an irregular payment of R30 million by Ferro-Staal, another arms deal contractor.
The naÃ¯ve demand by the DA Defence spokesman, David Maynier, that the hawks should be unleashed on the arms deal is not going to meet with any success. The dissolution of the scorpions has seen to it that there is no independent investigative unit with the necessary capacity to carry out any investigation which will touch the vital interests of the highest echelons of some of those in power (past and present). The hawks are safely under the control of a politician in the governing alliance, the Minister of Police, while the scorpions answered only to the National Director of Public Prosecutions, an official constitutionally required to function without fear, favour or prejudice. The hawks are shot through with deployed cadres while the scorpions were remarkably free of those regarded as “safe party hands”. The dissolution of the scorpions was designed to stop investigations that tended to embarrass senior politicians. Gwede Mantashe has frankly conceded that this is so. The hawks’ track record extends to investigating perlemoen smugglers and drug lords; no senior politician has ever felt their talons, nor is it likely that hawks will fearlessly and impartially get their beaks into allegations of corruption in high places any time soon.
The appropriate response to the wealth of apparently damning evidence, demanded ad nauseam from every quarter except the ANC, is an independent judicial commission of enquiry, presided over by retired judges and staffed by professional and ethical personnel. The cancer caused by allegations of corruption needs to be addressed before it consumes the country. If there was no corruption, let this be independently and credibly established; if there was, let’s deal with it openly and transparently in the national interest. Cancelling fraudulent and corrupt deals could recoup up to R70 billion for our hard pressed taxpayers.
Paul Hoffman SC
30th March, 2010