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Terry Crawford-Browne

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Cape High Court Decision

Dear Friends:

As you will have learned, the Minister of Finance got his interim gagging order this morning, and I have been ordered to remove defamatory material from my blogsite. The order stipulates that it “is not directed to stop [me] from participating in a debate of immense public importance”, and [the Minister] is “ordered to launch his action within 20 days.”

The order is not unexpected, and becomes an opportunity to reopen the whole arms deal corruption scandal. In response to the Minister’s action, we will unload the evidence into the court records where the evidence can speak for itself.

The President’s credibility was shredded at Polokwane. Minister Alec Erwin’s credibility has been shredded by Eskom. And now Minister Trevor Manuel’s credibility is being shredded by the collapse of the rand and the pending financial crisis, of which he was warned by the 1999 arms deal affordability study but chose to ignore. These three are the surviving “big fish” of the arms deal — Manuel’s responsibility being its affordability and financing.

Meanwhile, as Andrew Feinstein‘s invitation to his seminar at the Book Lounge next Thursday makes clear, the whole arms deal saga is coming to a head with foreign investigations into BAE bribes. European governments have for years been complicit in the corruption that permeates the arms industry, and wrapped it in phoney patriotism. When in 1998 I asked the British government to investigate whether BAE was bribing Tony Yengeni and other ANC politicians, the response was that it was not illegal in Britain to bribe foreigners and, therefore, there was no crime to investigate.

A British government minister in 2004 finally admitted that bribes were paid to secure the BAE contracts with South Africa but, she pleaded, the bribes were “within reasonable limits”. British researchers estimate those bribes at GBP 112 million, or R1.6 billion. Similarly, Thyssen Krupp has admitted that it paid bribes to secure the German warship contracts. That company also pleads that bribery of foreigners was then legal in Germany, and that the payments were even tax deductible as a legitimate business expense.

Corruption is not a “victimless crime.” The poor are its main victims not only through the misallocation of public resources, but as the main victims of violent crime. The arms deal unleashed corruption and organised crime in South Africa on such a scale that our hard-won transition to democracy is, sadly, now in jeopardy,