April 12 2011
ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu has asked President Jacob Zuma to urgently consider establishing a commission of inquiry into the multibillion-rand arms deal.
This is not the first time Tutu has approached the Presidency to ask that the controversial arms deal be properly investigated.
In 2008, he and former president FW de Klerk wrote to then-president Kgalema Motlanthe to request an inquiry.
In his letter to Zuma, dated March 23, Tutu explained that at the time, Motlanthe had declined to investigate, saying it would be “more appropriate” to report wrongdoing to the police.
But Tutu said in his letter to Zuma that the recent Constitutional Court judgment, which found that the Hawks were not adequately independent of political influence in their structure and functions, meant it was time for the Presidency to step in and begin a proper investigation into the arms deal.
“Now the highest court in the land has ruled that the unit of the police tasked with dealing with corruption is not properly equipped to do so in cases of grand or political corruption, I have decided to renew my call for a commission of inquiry by asking you to give your urgent consideration to this request.
“The reason for refusing has fallen away,” Tutu wrote in his letter to Zuma.
Tutu described corruption as a “cancer in our society”, and said it was encouraging to note Zuma’s own repeated commitment to rooting out “this pernicious weed in our public life”.
Tutu wrote that the only way for the government’s corruption-busting efforts to be regarded as sincere was for the alleged arms deal corruption to be dealt with in public hearings conducted by an independent commission of inquiry, presided over by retired judges.
“You are the only person who can appoint such a commission of inquiry and doing so is the only rational response available in the circumstances which now prevail,” said Tutu.
Zuma’s spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said he did not know about the letter, but promised to follow up.
He had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.
However, the Cape Argus understands that an administrative secretary in the Presidency has contacted Tutu to acknowledge receipt of the letter.
Tutu’s call to Zuma is supported by arms deal crusader Terry Crawford-Brown and Patricia de Lille, who as an MP was the first to make allegations of corruption and bribery related to the arms deal, presenting a dossier to Parliament outlining them.
On being told about Tutu’s letter to Zuma, De Lille said she supported the retired cleric’s appeal.
“As long as there’s no inquiry, the dark cloud will continue to hang over Zuma’s head.”
She said there had been previous appeals for arms deal inquiries that had gone unheeded, and if this one fell on deaf ears, Tutu and others who wanted an investigation should not be deterred.
De Lille said many people would never stop seeking justice and that the other side of the story needed to be heard in a public forum.
“(The Presidency) should really consider (an investigation), because by now surely they have run out of excuses,” said De Lille.
Crawford-Brown, who has approached the Western Cape High Court and the Constitutional Court seeking the cancellation of all arms deal-related contracts, said he was hopeful that the Constitutional Court would rule in his favour.
“The president keeps saying that he’s committed to dealing with corruption. This is the litmus test for good governance and democracy,” said Crawford-Brown.
He added that if the government refused to deal with corruption, the country would be “on the skids to disaster”.