Terry Crawford-Browne: Winnie Mandela and the Arms Deal revisited
The death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the charging of former president Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thomson CSF/Thint/Thales with corruption, and the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani have combined to bring South Africa’s arms deal scandal back into renewed focus.
Coinciding with these events, the long-delayed release of Evelyn Groenink’s book Incorruptible focuses first upon whether the French secret service was responsible for the murder in 1989 of the ANC’s representative in Paris, Dulcie September. Had September stumbled upon venal French and South African collusion to develop neutron weapons that would kill people but leave economic infrastructure unscathed?
Or were some elements among ANC exiles already negotiating future arms deal contracts with Thomson CSF? Zuma’s former “financial adviser” Shabir Shaik was found guilty in 2005 of facilitating payments to Zuma, and was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Thomson CSF had a long record of corruption and even murder, as became evident in a Taiwanese case that in scale eclipses South Africa’s arms deal.
Zuma however, was not charged. The 16 charges now (and 783 counts) against Zuma of money laundering, corruption, racketeering and fraud, are merely a resumption in 2018 of that case which was not pursued because of political ramifications within the ANC.
A former lawyer for Thomson CSF (now known as Thales), turned whistle- blower, testified at the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in February that he had twice accompanied Zuma to the Elysee Palace in Paris. Zuma was hosted there by Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy, both of whom were anxious that South African investigations against the French company should be dropped.
The lawyer, Ajay Sooklal, also told the Tribunal that after Zuma appointed the Seriti Commission of Inquiry in 2011, he called Sooklal to instruct him not to tell the Commission that the French were paying him until 2009. Zuma had reluctantly appointed the Commission because (as he informed senior members of the ANC) he was about to lose the case that I brought against him in the Constitutional Court in 2010.
Zuma’s lawyers were unable to rebut the reality of massive volumes of evidence against BAE/ Saab plus the German Frigate and Submarine consortia. The Seriti Commission proved a farce. Its report released in 2016 found that there was no evidence of corruption relating to the arms deal, and was immediately dismissed as yet another ANC attempt at cover-up. As Norman Moabi revealed in 2013, Judge Willie Seriti was pursuing “a second agenda to silence the Terry Crawford-Brownes of this world.”
Zuma is now the second South African president to be removed from office amid corruption allegations relating to the arms deal. President Thabo Mbeki was accused in 2008 of having received a bribe on behalf of the German Submarine Consortium, of which he allegedly gave R2 million to Zuma and R28 million to the ANC.
Mbeki had intervened as early as 1995 on behalf of the German government and ThyssenKrupp which, according to a former German ambassador to South Africa who spilled-the-beans to me, were “determined at all costs” to win the warship contracts.
The assassination of Chris Hani in April 1993 very nearly derailed the process to democracy. The motives for his murder have never been satisfactorily investigated, including by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The crime was quickly and conveniently blamed on two white racists. They were sentenced to death, but the penalties were commuted to life imprisonment after South Africa abolished capital punishment.
Groenink’s investigation into Hani’s death seemingly validates his widow Limpho’s insistence that the assassin Janusz Walus was not alone. British intelligence agents were allegedly employed at the scene as “sweepers,” and investigators were also instructed to ignore Walus’s links to Rhodesian arms dealer John Bredenkamp.
The British have centuries of experience in false-flag operations, including unleashing corruption to destroy countries. London remains the money laundering capital of the world, as yet again confirmed by the Panama and subsequently Paradise papers.
European politicians and arms companies flocked to South Africa after 1994 to pay tribute with one hand to our relatively peaceful transition from apartheid to constitutional democracy, whilst vigorously peddling weapons with the other. In violation of the UN arms embargo against apartheid South Africa, they had long been preparing to sell weapons to the ANC government that the country did not need and could not afford.
It is estimated that the arms trade accounts for about 40 percent of international corruption, and that under the guise of “national security” European governments have no compunctions about the use of bribes to secure arms contracts in so-called “third world” countries. Indeed, 160 pages of affidavits from the British Serious Fraud Office and the Scorpions detail how and why BAE paid bribes of £115 million to secure its contracts, to whom the bribes were paid and which bank accounts in South Africa and overseas were credited.
Those BAE bribery affidavits reveal Bredenkamp as one of the prime beneficiaries. He was also reputedly a member of MI6. Even more sensational are suggestions of ANC involvement because Hani was allegedly about to expose the [now late] Joe Modise’s corruption and connections with the British. That Modise later in 1998 intervened on behalf of BAE with what he termed his “non-costed option and visionary approach” is well documented.
I was appointed in 1996 by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane to represent the Anglican Church at the parliamentary Defence Review where, in line the Defence White Paper, we representatives of civil society argued that poverty alleviation was South Africa’s security priority. As even militarists acknowledged, there was no conceivable foreign military threat to justify huge expenditures on armaments.
The arms deal was predicated upon the absurdity that R30-billion spent on armaments would magically generate R110-billion in offsets and create over 65 000 jobs. When Parliamentarians and the Auditor General demanded sight of the offset contracts, they were blocked with the spurious excuse that the contracts were “commercially confidential”.
Offsets were and are internationally notorious as a scam by the arms industry, with collusion of corrupt politicians, to fleece the taxpayers in both supplier and recipient countries. Predictably, they never materialised.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a member of the parliamentary Defence Committee. On the occasions that I met her, I found her not only elegant and beautiful. More pertinently, she was also eloquently incisive in her concern that such spending represented nothing less than the betrayal of the struggle against apartheid by returning ANC exiles. Following her passing, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in his tribute to her:
“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband, the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces, detentions, bannings and banishment. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”
I was informed in 1998 that BAE was laundering bribes to ANC members of parliament ahead of the 1999 elections, and was doing so via two Swedish trade unions. I asked the British government to investigate, and Scotland Yard was instructed to do so. In due course I learned that it was [then] not illegal in English law to bribe foreigners, and therefore there was no crime for Scotland Yard to investigate. And in Germany such bribes were even tax-deductible as a “useful business expense.”
As Andrew Feinstein recorded in his book After The Party, not only did Trevor Manuel pressure him to drop the Scopa investigation into the arms deal, but declared:
“We all know JM (as Joe Modise was known). It’s possible that there was some shit in the deal. But if there was, no one will ever uncover it. They’re not that stupid. Just let it lie. Focus on the technical stuff, which was sound.’ I responded that there were even problems with the technical aspects, and warned that if we didn’t get to the bottom of the deal now, it would come back to haunt us – a view I expressed over and over again within the ANC.
“Another senior member of the ANC’s NEC invited me to his house one Sunday. Sitting outside in the sunshine, he explained to me that I was never going to “win this thing’. ‘Why not?’ I demanded.
“Because we received money from some of the winning companies. How do you think we funded the 1999 election?”
Former anti-apartheid activist (now Lord) Peter Hain vigorously denied to me both verbally and in writing that there was any evidence of BAE corruption. Fast forward to 2010 when Swedish TV 4 revealed that the trade unionist who had facilitated transfer of those bribes had been elected as leader of the Social Democratic Party. He is now the prime minister of Sweden, Stefan Lövren.
Shortly before that 1999 election, ANC intelligence operatives who were working with Mandela contacted me. Their leader told me:
“We’ll tell where the real corruption is around the arms deal. Joe Modise and the leadership of Umkhonto weSizwe see the arms deal and other government contracts as an opportunity to replace the Oppenheimers as the new financial elite. The arms deal is just the tip of the iceberg that also concerns oil deals, the taxi recapitalization process, toll roads, drivers’ licences, Cell C, the Coega harbour development, diamond and drugs smuggling, weapons trafficking and money laundering. The common denominator is kickbacks to the ANC in return for political protection.”
Accordingly, I briefed Archbishop Ndungane about the conversation. He called for a commission of inquiry into the allegations, and endorsed suggestions that the arms deal acquisitions should be halted. When Mbeki, now installed as President, rejected Ndungane’s proposal, I introduced those ANC intelligence operatives to Patricia de Lille, then a Member of Parliament for the Pan Africanist Congress.
The arms deal was allegedly the payback to Modise from Mbeki for removing Hani from contention as successor to Nelson Mandela as president of the country. Mbeki was corrupted by and obsessed with power, which brought him into collision with Winnie Mandela who refused to submit to his dictates. In turn, he described her as “undisciplined!”
Under Mbeki’s presidency, Parliament quickly degenerated into a rubber stamp. Having absorbed the mindset in authoritarian countries that public office provides “their time to eat,” ANC exiles systematically destroyed the checks-and-balances so carefully crafted into the Constitution.
The upshot a few months later was the release of the “Memorandum to Patricia de Lille MP from ‘concerned ANC MPs” (the so-called De Lille Dossier). Deliberately mangled grammar and spelling disguised its origins. The uproar that followed that was truly revealing, and alarming. Mbeki’s points-man for the arms deal, Jayendra Naidoo challenged me whether I had written it. As I pondered how to answer him, he continued: “no, it was obviously written by someone more familiar with an AK-47 than with a pen!”
The ANC launched a witch-hunt to track down the “Concerned ANC MPs.” De Lille received death threats, whilst Archbishop Ndungane and I were also pressured to reveal their identities. We refused. De Lille and I in November 1999 announced that we had forwarded the evidence of corruption to Judge Willem Heath for his evaluation. De Lille famously wore a T-shirt at the next opening of Parliament declaring that “the arms deal is out of my hands”.
Our decision was endorsed by civil society organisations that had participated in the Defence Review, plus the SA Council of Churches and the SA Catholic Bishops Conference. We also declared then that we would only reveal the names to a properly constituted judicial commission of inquiry.
The arms deal affordability study in August 1999 had warned Cabinet ministers that the arms deal was a reckless proposition that could lead the government into mounting “fiscal, financial and economic difficulties.” The study noted the foreign exchange and other risks, including non-delivery of the offset obligations, and recommended that the BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft contracts should be cancelled, or at least deferred.
South Africa was then still taking delivery from Israel of 50 Cheetah fighter aircraft, which later were sold off at fire sale prices to Ecuador and other Latin American countries. Quite clearly there was no rational justification for the BAE/Saab and other purchases. They were simply bought for the bribes.
The combination of BAE Hawk and BAE/Saab Gripen contracts accounted for over half of the arms deal. The 20-year Barclays Bank loan agreements signed by Trevor Manuel and guaranteed by the British government can be described as a “textbook example of third world debt entrapment”. The British government holds the controlling “golden share” in BAE.
In confirming those loan agreements in my possession and obtained from London as authentic, Manuel’s own legal counsel in 2003 conceded that their default clauses are “potentially catastrophic for South Africa.” By comparison, the Thomson CSF sub contract about which Zuma and Thales will now finally face corruption charges was a relative side-show.
I had no further contact with Mandela until 2011 when I invited her to testify at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Cape Town on her experiences of living in apartheid South Africa. I was severely criticised at the time in the media, but no one in South Africa was better qualified than she to describe the crimes of apartheid. Unfortunately she had to withdraw for health reasons, so I substituted Dr Allan Boesak.
It was the “inziles” who carried the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s – Winnie Mandela, Tutu, Boesak in particular – whilst ANC exiles in Lusaka and elsewhere were still asleep and dreaming of how to loot South Africa once they came to power.
Under threat by Judge Seriti of being held in contempt, I reluctantly revealed at the Seriti Commission in 2014 that Winnie Mandela was the leader of those “concerned ANCs.” Predictably, the ANC’s spokesman lambasted me as a “pathological liar”. In fact, Mandela that same afternoon confirmed the veracity of my disclosure in a telephone conversation to De Lille.
The “De Lille Dossier” did result in Parliament voting unanimously in November 2000 for a multi-pronged investigation into the arms deal, which the Mbeki presidency then moved rapidly to undermine and destroy. The “whitewash” Joint Investigating Team (JIT) report -- whilst confirming that every arms deal contract was seriously flawed with tendering irregularities – most curiously also absolved the Cabinet of any wrongdoing.
Six weeks before that report was tabled in Parliament, I was informed by those ANC intelligence operatives that Modise was being deliberately but slowly poisoned so that “dead men could tell no tales”. To my astonishment, Modise then died as if on schedule.
Modise’s funeral, perchance, coincided with that of former President FW de Klerk’s wife, Marike, who had also been murdered. Given her flair for making a political statement, Mandela chose to snub Modise – whom she blamed for Hani’s death – and instead that same afternoon attended Marike de Klerk’s funeral.
As a casualty of war, Mandela was undoubtedly severely damaged by her experiences in so courageously opposing apartheid, including torture inflicted upon her. The barbarities and atrocities of wars impact on both perpetrators and victims, and can take generations to heal. The damage inflicted by the arms deal to South Africa’s hard-won constitutional democracy has been immense.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair squelched the British Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE’s payment of bribes to Saudi Arabian princes on the false excuse of “national security,” but BAE was subsequently fined $479-million by US authorities.
If a new political climate dedicated to eradication of corruption is finally to emerge under President Cyril Ramaphosa, then cancellation of those fraudulent BAE contracts (and recovery of the monies plus very substantial damages) would signify that he is indeed serious. In the process, such a decision would also acknowledge and honour the huge contribution that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela made in exposing the arms deal scandal.
Not only is there no prescription on fraud, but the arms deal has proved the legal maxim that “fraud unravels everything!” DM