South Africa 7.10.2014 12:39 pm

Arms deal ‘toys’ rotting – Terry Crawford-Browne

FILE PICTURE: Judge Hendrick Musi and Chair Judge Willie Seriti during the Sereti Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Daniel Born.

FILE PICTURE: Judge Hendrick Musi and Chair Judge Willie Seriti during the Sereti Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Gallo Images / The Times / Daniel Born.

Weapons acquired during the 1999 arms deal are not being used and are becoming derelict, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

“With regards to the 30 Augusta helicopters purchased from Italy, I am informed that many of them are in storage and unused or rotting at Ysterplaat Air Force Base in Cape Town,” arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne told the inquiry’s hearings in Pretoria.

“Accordingly, I invite the commission’s members to inspect Ysterplaat, to see for themselves how many there are in their state of airworthiness.”

He said government acquired four frigates that were reportedly equipped with defective engines and an obsolete combat suite and armoury system.

“South Africa acquired three submarines that spend most of the time on the ‘hard’ at Simon’s Town and 50 BAE Hawk and BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft for which the country had almost no pilots to fly them, mechanics to maintain them, or even the money to fuel them.

“The arms deal was a confidence trick played at huge socio-economic cost to the people of South Africa, which has seriously undermined our still-fragile constitutional democracy,” said Crawford-Browne.

The commission was appointed by President Jacob Zuma three years ago to investigate alleged corruption in the arms procurement deal in 1999.

For billions of rands government acquired, among other hardware, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the air force, and frigates and submarines for the navy.

Crawford-Browne said former deputy defence minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge was told by senior navy officials that the country had bought the wrong equipment.

“Ms Madlala-Routledge has by e-mail authorised me to reveal this,” he said.

Madlala-Routledge was deputy defence minister from 1999 to April 2004 and deputy health minister from April 2004 to August 2007.

Crawford-Browne said billions spent on these purchases could have been used to improve the lives of South Africans.

“While millions of South Africans struggle daily with the legacies of apartheid and poverty, these men childishly expounded about their pride in so-called toys for boys and other irrelevances,” he said in his affidavit to the inquiry.

“Astonishingly, a purported justification for the acquisition of the BAE Gripen warplanes included protection for the 2010 World Cup.”

The inquiry continues.

Sapa

 

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