Thursday, November 22, 2012

Swedish TV reveals fresh claims in South Africa's arms deal

22 NOV 2012 08:59 - TABELO TIMSE, SAM SOLE, STEFAANS BRÜMMER As in SA, the ghosts of the arms deal keep returning to haunt politicians in Sweden, with a TV station revealing new details in the arms deal saga. OUR COVERAGE Arms deal: Conflict of interest twist raises alarm Taxpayers in the dark about arms deals Arms deal inquiry hits the skids The arms deal: An economic dud from the start MORE COVERAGE Call to probe Barclays links to arms deal On Wednesday night Sweden's Channel 4 investigative programme Kalla Fakta (Cold Facts) broadcast a new take on corruption allegations related to the sale of Saab Gripen jet fighters to South Africa in 1999. The programme focused on the role of Stefan Löfven – a former head of the Swedish industrial union IF Metall, and the current leader of the Social Democratic party leading the polls in the run up to election in 2014. In 1999 Löfven was the head of Metall's international section and – according to the programme – a good friend of Moses Mayekiso, the former general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). The focus of the programme was the odd agreement announced in July 1999 when Numsa and the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco) announced their joint support for the Saab Gripen bid. The public support, from what were touted as "two of South Africa's largest labour and community organisations", was crucial at a time when government was considering postponing the jet purchase due to budget constraints. Mayekiso had by then left Numsa to lead Sanco, though he remained influential within the union. The announcement referred to "reciprocal agreements", by which Saab would support Numsa in establishing an Industrial School modelled on Saab's advanced training facility in Sweden and noted that the initiative was supported by Metall and another big Swedish union. But rumours that the Saab-Metall initiative was a cover for the payment of dubious sweeteners or commissions were already swirling. Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne has written: "In December 1998 I was invited by Numsa to participate in a workshop in Johannesburg on the arms deal … Numsa officials then informed me that additional bribes of R30-million were being laundered ... via two Swedish trade unions, ostensibly to fund an industrial training school but, in reality, to bribe South African parliamentarians to support the arms deal." The allegations were aired by Crawford-Browne and then Pan-Africanist Congress MP Patricia de Lille in late 1999 as part of the initial arms deal dossier – but no real evidence was forthcoming. Now Cold Facts has gone back to old Numsa sources and records to demonstrate that, at the very least, there was something to hide. The Swedish journalists accessed Numsa central committee minutes that show there was serious concern within the union following the Crawford-Browne revelations. One extract notes: "The allegations made … around the union receiving kick-backs… should not be ignored ... there is a great need to institute an investigation to clear the organisation." Numsa's then newly appointed general secretary Silumko Nondwangu and the Numsa Central Committee convened an internal investigation. "We decided that we would send a delegation to Sweden to investigate the allegations, speak to our Swedish counterparts, speak to anyone else in Sweden who would know exactly about whether Numsa would have been offered a school as an off-set to the arms deal," Nondwangu told Swedish television. The minutes uncovered by the Swedish investigation are more blunt: "The NOB [National Office Bearers] sensitise the meeting [about] the suggested trip ... The meeting was cautioned by the NOBs that it seems the aim of the trip is to win the hearts and minds of the comrades that will be sent to Sweden … " In June 2000 Numsa training coordinator Melanie Samson, treasurer Philemon Shiburi and central committee member Petrus Ncgobo arrived in Sweden. Löfven played the central role in hosting the visit. The day after their arrival they were taken to the Linköping aircraft factory for a meeting with Metall and Saab. Ngcobo told Swedish journalists the delegation was concerned about a missing page or paragraphs in the purported agreement which had been signed on the union's behalf: "Why is this clause missing? To us it was not as if it was not a mistake." Shiburi says on camera: "They continued denying that there is a page missing and we left the meeting without getting the final page which we were looking for." The visitors took an early plane home, but a few weeks later, received confirmation that the missing page really indeed existed. It has been sent to Numsa's leadership, but the text of two paragraphs is blackened out. Numsa decided to distance itself from any project linked to the arms deal, but continued to seek assistance from Metall for an anti-Aids programme. Nondwangu told the Mail & Guardian: "During our investigations we could not even make out the agreement supposedly signed by Numsa and the union because there were pages missing and words blocked out. On that basis we could not make out a conclusion. "We remained suspicious that something could have happened we don't know what but because no one would own up we decided to close the investigations." SAAB and Svenska Metall deny that there were any irregularities – as does Mayekiso. Metall says they have no record of the agreement. SAAB says it is confidential. Swedes, like South Africans, still want answers. MAIL & GUARDIAN Arms deal detail unveiled November 22 2012 at 08:00am By Terry Bell. Comment on this story INLSA A Gripen fighter jet is transported from Cape Town harbour to the Yysterplaat air force base. Picture: Gary van Wyk Related Stories Scopa to meet about arms deal DA seeks arms deal docs DA welcomes possible arms deal probe Activists want proper arms deal probe Arms deal author points finger at Modise’s role E-toll company denies arms deal involvement Another crack has opened up in the façade of secrecy surrounding the controversial multibillion-dollar arms deal. It came last night on Sweden’s TV4 channel in the first of two special reports by the Kalla Fakta (Cold Facts) investigative team. The report is likely to have serious political repercussions in Sweden and will reopen lines of inquiry in South Africa. In it, former National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) treasurer Philimon Shiburi and union central committee member Petrus Ngcobo admit that a R10 million handout to build a training school was offered to Numsa on condition that the union support the purchase of Swedish-built Gripen fighter jets. No official of the union seems to have been party to this agreement between Numsa, plane maker Saab and Swedish metal union Svenska Metall (SM). However, shortly before the arms deal was signed, the ANC issued a statement that Numsa supported the purchase of Gripen fighter jets. Shiburi and Ngcobo admitted to TV4 that they had sight of the agreement in Sweden as part of a Numsa corruption investigation in 2000, but both Saab and SM deny that this clause existed. However, Shiburi is adamant: “One of the conditions of [the agreement] was that we’ll do our level best in supporting them to acquire the arms procurement [contract],” he told the television team. After viewing the interviews with Shiburi and Ngcobo, arms deal campaigner and former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein told TV4: “It’s extremely damning that two senior officials of the union who have actually seen the agreement say that there was a direct relationship between the money for the school and the support for the school on the condition that Saab win this particular contract. That just smells to me like corruption.” According to Feinstein, support from Numsa was crucial at that time for Saab. “If they were going to win this contract they needed to put together a political coalition that would make it easier for the South African government… to choose the Gripen.” Kalla Fakta points out that in 1999, the SA Air Force had already rejected the Gripen and there was talk within the ANC of scrapping the arms deal. Against this background, the ANC released a statement: “The National Union of Metalworkers of SA have pledged their support for the Gripen proposal to supply fighter aircraft to South Africa.” It added that the “foreign companies” together with SM would “support Numsa in establishing an industrial school in South Africa”. But, according to Numsa, no union official was involved in this. Former Numsa training officer Melanie Samson told TV4: “It’s fascinating that there’d been a lot of work done on the Numsa school without the participation of Numsa.” However, in 1999 the Cosatu affiliate was in a state of flux, without a general secretary. The union’s former general secretary, Silumko Nondwangu, admits that there was “no leadership” at the time. As a result “all sorts of characters” had the opportunity to use the union “to pursue their own selfish personal, economic interests”. It was Nondwangu who appointed a three-member Numsa team in 2000 to travel to Sweden to try to clear up the allegations of corruption that had surfaced. These included not just the R10m for a training school, but also R40m in “commissions” from Saab and its British partner BAE Systems, possibly channelled through the Swedish and South African unions. Such “commissions”, which BAE has already admitted to paying, are widely seen as sweeteners given to politicians and others who could influence the purchase of aircraft that were both over-priced and unwanted. However, in buying them, jobs were probably saved in the Saab factory. Numsa was desperate to establish the truth of the matter, but the investigation in Sweden by Samson, Shiburi and Ncgobo drew a blank. The team felt they were fobbed off by both SM and Saab officials, treated to lavish meals, but given no information. They cut short their visit and returned. Significantly, their host at the time was then SM official Stefan Lofven, who is today the leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, who is punted as the next Swedish prime minister. As the SM international secretary in the 1980s, Lofven dealt directly with the emerging South African unions and, Samson admits, was “very close” to Numsa’s first general secretary, Moses Mayekiso. This name, TV4 says, was included as a signatory on the agreement relating to the school project, although Mayekiso was then no longer involved with Numsa. Nondwangu’s reaction was that he felt “betrayed” by what had happened. A proper investigation into the allegations of corruption required special skills and “financial muscle”. In 2000 Numsa “lacked this”. Current Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, who has consistently opposed the arms deal, said yesterday: “I was interviewed by the Swedish television and told them Numsa has nothing to hide. We took a decision to investigate and we rejected the school proposal. We will also co-operate fully with the (Siriti) commission of inquiry into the arms deal.” BUSINESS REPORT - - - - COMMENTS BY SONNY Yes, Zuma's worst nightmare, just before Mangaung! He should not have reached such heights if the "Rule of Law" was properly implemented in SA! WHAT THE DELEGATES DID NOT KNOW DID NOT CONCERN THEM. GRAFTS, BRIBERY & CORRUPTION, ALL TRADEMARKS OF THE ANC. NKANDLA HOMESTEAD WAS BORN OUT OF THIS CORRUPTION.

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