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Terry Crawford-Browne

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The arms deal has rightly come back to haunt Mbeki

The following letter was first published in the Cape Argus under the headline, “The subs were never intended to go to sea”. Sections that the Argus deleted have been restored and marked as such.

That the SA Navy’s shiny new submarines lie idle (Cape Argus, December 5) because of a severe shortage of skilled staff comes as no surprise. The then Auditor General reported to Parliament in September 2000 that no consideration had been to personnel requirements for these warships.

Of course, it was never intended that the submarines would actually go to sea, whatever the Navy’s absurd pretensions that they would be the ultimate stealth weapons to protect fish. They were built for bribes, especially to the late Joe Modise (deleted as payback for his support of Thabo Mbeki’s candidature for the ANC presidency but also to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.)

Modise announced in June 1999 that in return for buying three submarines from Germany, offsets would magically create over 16 000 jobs in the Eastern Cape around a stainless steel plant at Coega. (deleted Ferrostaal is internationally notorious for bribing politicians so.) That was soon cancelled as economically unviable. It morphed into a condom factory which, in turn, closed three weeks after it opened.

There is, however, an international transfer market for offset points. So now — instead of either a stainless steel plant or a condom factory — we have the prospect of an electricity-guzzling aluminium smelter at Coega just when South Africa has an acute shortage of electrical capacity. (deleted It is evident that economic morons are in charge of South Africa’s economy.)

(deleted The arms deal has rightly come back to haunt Mbeki. The legacy of his disastrous presidency is that for his personal aggrandisement he unleashed a culture of corruption and crime that threatens the very foundations of South Africa’s hard-won constitutional democracy.)

Would our politicians please have the grace to admit that they were conned, but also open the ANC’s books to public scrutiny? Our government can still in terms of the supply contract bribery clauses cancel all three submarines, and then send them back to Germany with the cancellation costs being for the account of German rather than South African taxpayers.

First published 7 Dec 07 in the Cape Argus.