Arms Deal Joint Investigation Report – UDM’S reaction

Who is fooling whom? “The troughs have changed however the pigs have remained the same”

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Many public statements on the Arms Deal saga assert that Parliament approved the Defence Review and thereby approved the decision to purchase military equipment. ANC ministers and –politicians have made this assertion frequently during the Arms Deal investigation. However, it is fundamentally and demonstrably inaccurate.

The inaccuracy has no bearing whatsoever on the allegations of impropriety against the “comrades in corruption”. The experts argue that the implications relate to policy, parliamentary mandates and the debate around state expenditure priorities. The Defence Review was conducted in terms of the overarching policy framework of the White Paper on Defence, approved by Cabinet and Parliament in 1996. The White Paper proclaims that national security is no longer a predominantly military and police problem. It encompasses the consolidation of democracy, economic development and the achievement of social justice. At the heart of this new approach is a “paramount concern with the security of people”. The White Paper goes on to declare that the greatest threats to the security of our people are socio-economic problems like poverty, unemployment, poor education and the lack of housing and adequate social services. In the absence of any foreseeable external military threat, there is “a compelling need to reallocate state resources to the Reconstruction and Development Programme”. The challenge facing the Department of Defence is “to rationalise the SANDF and contain military spending without undermining the country’s core defence capability”. We do not dispute the fact that the Defence Review contains a force design that lists the type and quantity of military hardware deemed necessary for the SANDF to fulfil its functions. The list includes submarines, corvettes and the other weapons systems that form part of the procurement package. However, the Review describes the force design as a “vision” that will change over time. The final detail concerning the type and quantity of weaponry to be acquired will “inevitably deviate from the vision” and “such deviations will be subject to parliamentary oversight”. Notwithstanding the binding agreement, President Mbeki’s Cabinet reneged on it and induced government to underwrite the R29.9 billion Arms Procurement Deal behind Parliament’s back. This has now escalated to R66 billion, and still mounting. The Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel signed foreign loan agreements and credit guarantees early this year without the approval of Parliament by way of a special or other resolution. The Hansard of Parliament reflects that no such approval was sought or obtained. For the Cabinet to approve such agreements without the approval of Parliament is unlawful. Even the Public Finance Management Act of 1999 states that it prohibits the State from borrowing money or issuing guarantees without specific authority from Parliament. Given these qualifications, parliamentary approval of the Defence Review in 1998 cannot be construed as a mandate to buy weapons. Parliament was not asked to sanction the Arms Deal at the time of the Review or subsequently. It has exercised its oversight function only in relation to the charges of corruption and conflict of interest surrounding the deal, after the Auditor-General’s Special Review Report was tabled in September 2000. Moreover, the Review acknowledges that “national priorities and budgetary restrictions place constraints on defence expenditure”. It accepts that the force design vision is thus unaffordable in the short to medium term. At the time of the Review, Parliament consequently had no expectation of increased military spending. Indeed, the Review anticipates that annual defence expenditure between 1998/9 and 2005/6 will remain constant at R9.7 billion in 1998 rand-value. This target now appears likely to be exceeded substantially. In the many ways as described above, the R66 billion arms package is inconsistent with national policy on security and defence endorsed by Cabinet and Parliament. The package is in fact more likely to reduce than enhance security. This is undoubtedly true for millions of people in terms of human security: money spent on weaponry is money that could otherwise have been spent on education, housing, health, social services and policing. With few exceptions, the ministers responsible for these portfolios insisted in their budget speeches to Parliament that they were chronically underfunded. It cannot be argued convincingly that the package is needed for peace operations in Africa. It is hard to imagine how submarines and corvettes could play a significant role in containing civil wars, nor could we imagine these weapons being deployed in the shallow Great Lakes. Given Government’s policy emphasis on peacekeeping and reluctance in peace enforcement, fighter aircraft and other combat equipment are unlikely to be used often if at all.

The record escalation of the Arms Procurement costs from R29.9 billion to R66 billion to date was foreseen by the Department of Fi