THIS afternoon, President Thabo Mbeki’s office issued yet another denial of allegations linking him to the arms deal.
The statement described allegations made in a Sunday Times article that Mbeki had received R30 million from MAN Ferrostaal as “a hotch-potch recycling of allegations that have from time to time been peddled against the government’s Strategic Defence Procurement Package.”
The statement goes on to quote an investigation conducted in 2001 by the Auditor-General, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Public Protector which concluded: “No evidence was found of any improper or unlawful conduct by the government. The irregularities and improprieties referred to in our report, point to the conduct of certain officials of the government departments involved cannot, in our view, be attributed to the President or the Ministers involved.”
But 2001 was a long time ago. Since then Mbeki has himself fired Jacob Zuma from the position of Deputy President after his financial advisor was found guilty of corruption related to the arms deal.
Zuma himself faces charges of corruption, suggesting that the 2001 report did not properly investigate the higher echelons of decision-making on the arms deal.
The investigation was not a public one which inspired confidence that all allegations had been properly dealt with.
The result has been that the cloud of suspicion continues to linger over the highest office in the land.
There is a very simple solution at hand: Government could convene a proper public inquiry headed up by a senior judge.
Inquiries such as these have been readily called on other matters where much vaguer allegations were made such as those that the former prosecutions boss, Bulelani Ngcuka, was an apartheid spy.
Mbeki must call such an inquiry with urgency