Media release

Media briefing after Budget Vote of The Presidency (transcript)

13 June 2008

13 June 2008

Chairperson: A special welcome on a Friday morning in Cape Town. First of all an apology on behalf of the Minister…we had to postpone our briefing yesterday afternoon, but you all understood that it clashed with a lot of things happening in Parliament and within the precinct yesterday. So, once again, our apologies for the inconvenience to all our members of the media. But, first of all, some of the house rules: All cell phones either mute, and then, if you ask any questions, will you please identify yourself. As you saw yesterday, there is a transcript which we are doing, and it helps in the final editing when we send it out and all that kind of thing. So with all these rules now in place I hand over to Minister Essop Pahad. The format of today’s briefing is … he will say a few things and I’ll leave it in his hands, and afterwards questions.

Minister Essop Pahad: Colin, thanks. Good morning and thank you for coming. A few things, it might be a very few things. No, we thought we should just have this media briefing because, as you know, what has happened is that this would be the last Budget Vote of the Presidency as presently constituted; because there will be a new President next year, and so it is a new administration that will then have the new budget vote. And it seems to me that people are a bit surprised that this should be so, but it isn’t so. Quite clearly in terms of the Constitution the President would not be President next year. And I had made my own position very clear, in spite of what some media might say, a long time ago. I’m 70 next year. So I have no intention of standing for re-election. But I had made my position clear a long time ago, and for those of you who read newspapers, especially those who work for the Independent, I made this also very clear in an article in the Star sometime before the Polokwane conference. So that has been our position and we thought we might just use the opportunity in case there are issues and other areas that you might want to probe, which is fine. So those are the few things I am going to say and we throw it open for questions or comments; I don’t have a problem with comments either.

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist: I do have a question which is: Can you explain to me - the Finance Minister will deliver a budget on February… I don’t know whether a date has been fixed, February 20th or thereabouts. The election is due in April although we don’t know exactly when the election is going to happen. Presumably there will be budget debates and speeches before that time, or am I getting this wrong? There won’t be budget speeches on the minister’s budget? What is the… what will be the mechanics in the run-up to the election?

Minister Essop Pahad: No I think the mechanics are quite clear. The first thing is that this administration will see out its term and in terms of the Constitution its term expires at the point at which the new legislature comes into place and new ministers are appointed. As you know that’s how we drafted the Constitution so that there will be no vacuum in the transition itself. So I don’t envisage, unless Parliament decides otherwise, any changes in what happens after the Minister of Finance delivers his budget vote. There would have to be a debate on the discussion of the budget vote that the Minister of Finance would place before Parliament. And the same processes, I imagine, that have accompanied a previous budget would still take place, and that is the Minister of Finance chairs the ministers’ committee on the budget; he has very close interactions with the MECs for Finance from all nine provinces. And eventually also presents the Budget to Cabinet, at which are invited the Premiers of all nine provinces, and he then presents the Budget to Parliament. So I don’t envisage any changes in that particular process.

Journalist: Minister, I just wanted to know: Have you got any comments about last night’s stabbing of Mcebisi Skwatsha in the Western Cape?

Minister Essop Pahad: Let me say quite clearly that one has to condemn that in the strongest possible terms. I do not understand how anybody, anybody, can imagine that you might want to resolve what you consider to be disputes inside the ANC by taking those kind of actions. They’re unacceptable, and can never be justified, and so I condemn it in the strongest, strongest possible terms. Secondly obviously the ANC will have to carry out its own investigation if it is an ANC member who carried out that attack and take the necessary action because the ANC, in my view, cannot and should not allow people who use that kind of violence to try to settle political scores. The third thing is I’m very happy to note from this morning’s report that Skwatsha was discharged from the clinic that he went into, which means that he is safe and secure and I wish him a very speedy recovery. But I want to emphasise that under no circumstances can it ever be justified that people should want to use violence to resolve what they consider to be internal party disputes. I don’t know the person who’s allegedly responsible for that attack so we’ll have to see who it is. But there’s no way we can justify it.

Journalist: Are you writing your memoirs?

Minister Essop Pahad: My memoirs? No when I step down I’ll think about writing; at the moment I have to do too many other things. I have to write my exit report and that should take priority above any memoirs. No I haven’t thought about it either. There are many things I will not speak about, so the memoirs might be so boring that only I’ll buy a copy of the book. Well, let’s wait and see. When I have my feet up and then I’ll see how much time I have to write. I can write English, that much I know. So I’m not afraid of writing. The question is whether you think you have… that what you have to say is of any real interest, and I’m not sure that what I have to say is of such interest, so I’ll have to see. We’ll make up our minds when I get there. Thanks.

Journalist: I just want to find out, given the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, particularly given the recent arrest of the MDC leadership. Do you in your view think that there could still be free and fair elections in Zimbabwe?

Minister Essop Pahad: No, I think as the President said again in his response to the Budget Vote (of The Presidency),, I mean our view is that our facilitating team as you know which is led by Minister Mufamadi and includes Mojanku Gumbi and the Reverend (Frank) Chikane, continue to engage with certainly the main political forces in Zimbabwe to try to do everything possible to ensure that if the run-off takes place, which is scheduled to take place, it must take place in the context in which the Zimbabweans should feel free to be able to express their own political view as well as vote for the person that they want to be president. I mean, I think that position of ours will remain the same, and actually to anywhere else in the world, that where you have elections the conditions must be conducive to having a free and fair election. So we’ll continue to do what we have to do and continue to engage with all of the political forces in Zimbabwe to try to deal with a lot of the issues that have arisen …. certainly over the last week, last two weeks. And that’ll be our position.

Journalist: Minister. Given all these arrests of the MDC leadership that have been happening in the past nine, eight days or so, do you honestly believe that a conducive environment exists at this point in time in Zimbabwe for free and fair elections to take place?

Minister Essop Pahad: Well, what we’ve said is that that has to come to an end. As you know President Mbeki himself intervened at a time when Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested. One of the things that’s been happening in Zimbabwe is that at least the courts have functioned. I mean, where people have gone to the courts to challenge arrests and other things the courts have acted in terms of at least trying to apply the law, you know, the rule of law, in Zimbabwe. You know the difficulty about saying whether or not you should continue with the election: (there is) my own experience of South Africa when in 1994 I headed the ANC team in the multiparty committee for the ’94 elections ... and the day before the ’94 elections took place you will recall there were bomb explosions. We could not incidentally go and have proper election campaigns in, for example, Bophutatswana; well this place they used to call Bophutatswana. And I remember going there with the present Speaker (Baleka Mbete) when we were stopped and machine guns were put on our chests to say: If you move one more inch - we were going into the university where the students were having a meeting - that they would open fire. So in a sense you come out of that situation, there have been other places whether it’s Pakistan, for example, where elections took place, also under very difficult conditions. If you look at Eastern Europe and you look at what has happened in Georgia recently where the opposition in Georgia claims that the elections were not free and fair, similarly in other places, and so it’s always a difficult matter. I think the important thing is that wherever possible, if it is held, the people who are (and in the end actually those who are going to supervise) to monitor the elections have to make a determination, quite independently of any pressures from any country in the world as to whether or not in their view the elections were at least substantially free and fair. So my own experience of South Africa is that if we had taken a position in 1994 that not all of the conditions were in place for free and fair elections, perhaps I would not be sitting here as the Minister in the Presidency. So these are very difficult matters to make a determination on before they happen. What we should do is what we’ve been trying to do … is all the time try to deal with these issues as they arise, to try our best to make sure that people are able to express their will when they go and vote. I think that’s the most important thing.

Journalist: Minister, I’m just wondering because last week we were having this press conference with the Director-General in the Presidency and then he denied the existence of a letter sent by the MDC. And now the MDC have confirmed that indeed they sent the letter. I’m just wondering if… they confirmed, yes. So I’m just wondering if the President has yet received the letter.

Minister Essop Pahad: You are asking the question. Because the DG in the Presidency is actually taking legal advice with respect to the report in the Sunday Times, so I think it’s very important for you to understand that. I mean, I don’t understand: The DG in the Presidency denies having received the letter. Somebody there in Zimbabwe says: No, we sent the letter; and you say where? They say: no, we sent the letter. To whom? No, we don’t know to whom. Has anybody signed for the letter? No, we don’t know. So as I’m sitting here, I don’t know; I haven’t spoken to Frank (Chikane) yesterday, because it’s the DG in the Presidency who would be the first to receive the letters. Secondly, there are protocols when you write to the President of the country. I mean, the MDC is in constant contact with our High Commission in Harare. The normal protocol procedure is you should also hand over the letter, if you’re writing to the President, to at least the representative of the President in the particular country. Even if you sent it separately, to say: But here’s a copy of the letter, can you make sure that it is received? So I don’t… when the Sunday Times accuses Frank of lying it’s just not true. When Frank said he did not receive the letter he had not received the letter. And so I don’t know sometimes why you don’t check with your sources, and ask the questions you’re asking me now. When did you send the letter? Who did you send the letter to? Who received the letter? Who signed for the letter? Did the Presidency give you a reply to say: Thank you very much; we’ve received your letter - you will get our reply in due course? So up to the point at which the Reverend Chikane called the press briefing, certainly he nor anybody else as far as he was concerned in the Presidency had received a letter written by the MDC to the President of the Republic of South Africa. If subsequent to that they had sent a letter, I don’t know; then we will check with the Reverend Chikane, but at the point at which he held that press conference Frank was very, very clear that he had not yet received the letter. So I think it’s also sometimes incumbent upon the media to also check facts before they publish them. But since the accusation was against Frank I guess Frank must take the necessary legal advice and anything else as to see what he can or cannot do. But that’s a responsibility for Frank and I haven’t asked him whether or not he’s given consideration to taking any further steps. But I do know that Frank told the truth, and anybody who knows Frank Chikane knows that Frank will not, will not, tell a lie, at least as far as I know Frank and having worked with him for a very long time even before we worked together here in the Presidency. So I really believe that we should check with the MDC people who claim they’ve sent the letter. You can’t say you sent it by post. I hope you sent it by post. How do you write to a president by post? Thanks.

Journalist: Yes, is the President doing anything about the arrest of Tendai Biti?

Minister Essop Pahad: Yes, as I said, every time there’s been an arrest or every time there’s been an issue that has arisen either the President or his facilitating team as well as our High Commissioner in Zimbabwe have tried to act with speed and quite clearly, if they’ve said that they’ve arrested Mr Biti for treason, then let’s see what happens. I mean if you arrest somebody for high treason you must bring them before court and so let’s see that they do bring Biti before the courts and lay the charges. And then the courts will have to decide whether or not Mr Biti was responsible for any acts of treason. But we will do what we can on our side to ensure that, once more, I repeat, to the extent that you can make it relatively, relatively peaceful, we should do so. So we will, yes, be in touch with the Zimbabweans. But you don’t like the word quiet diplomacy so that’s fine. The media’s job is to have loud diplomacy. We will continue to engage with the Zimbabweans without having to have a press conference every time we engage with them on one or other issue.

Journalist: Will you tell Mr Mugabe that unless you’re satisfied that these are free and fair elections he will not be recognised? These elections will not be recognised?

Minister Essop Pahad: No, that’s your job, not mine, or our job. No, man, we don’t behave in that way. I don’t think that we must go around lecturing people. Our job is to try to ensure that the satisfactory conditions are in place for such an election to take place. But I will advise the president that Michael Hamlin… I told you before, I used to read all your articles in the Times, has now advised you to do the following.

Journalist: Minister, you’ve mentioned in passing about an exit report that you will be doing. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Minister Essop Pahad: No, I think you also saw a statement by the secretary general of the ANC, Comrade Gwede Mantashe. I mean obviously what any outgoing administration would need to do is to prepare an exit report. As you know, in the Presidency, led by PCAS with Joel Netshitenzhe as the CEO of PCAS, (they) are very busy preparing a 15-year review which would be an assessment of government, its achievements, its shortcomings, and that will be discussed by the next Cabinet Lekgotla. But each of us as ministers have to produce an exit report. Speaking for myself, I mean what I would want to do is to prepare a report which would say, for example, this is what we said in our election manifesto in 2004; this is what we have achieved in terms of the election manifesto but also in terms of other policy positions that Cabinet would have taken. This is what we have not achieved, and why. What are the gaps and challenges so that, if there is such an animal as a Minister in the Presidency, particularly the report that I would make, then that person would have a report which they can look at and therefore hit the ground running. Since you know I’ve announced it in Parliament already that I am quite convinced that the ANC will win the elections by an overwhelming majority in 2009, so it will be an ANC minister that will come in. But it’s also normal practice that outgoing administrations leave these kinds of exit reports, so that when people come in they don’t have to start from scratch or scratch around for information and I think the important thing is that as far as I’m concerned, for myself, that the exit report should be an honest assessment of what one has done or was not able to do in terms of our own stated objectives. And that report obviously will then be made available to whoever comes into the Presidency. And that is what will happen. It’s normal practice; it’s not anything new. And, as you know, as I said, Gwede Mantashe has also mentioned this; and that is what will happen.

Journalist: If you ever get around to writing your memoirs, how would you sum up the Mbeki presidency and could you tell me what you think (are) the biggest achievements and biggest shortcomings?

Minister Essop Pahad: The shortcomings we’ll talk about later. No, I think… I mean obviously if I say I make an objective assessment it’s only half true, because I’ve been involved in it from the very beginning. As I said, first as Parliamentary advisor, then later as minister. But my own view is that an honest assessment would show that if you take, for example, the public service: In 1994 when the first group of people were appointed as ministers and deputy ministers, and you will recall that we then had two Deputy Presidents, Mr Mbeki and Mr de Klerk, the public service was practically 98, 99% white, male, Afrikaans-speaking. And this applied certainly to all of the DGs and other senior management staff. In 14 years we have in my view carried out a revolutionary transformation of the public service where the overwhelming majority of DGs are Africans, quite a lot of women: We’ve taken a position that by 2009 we want to have in the senior management service, 50% women. This is a revolution. Both in terms of the national question as well as in terms of the gender question. So I think that’s a very, very remarkable achievement by this government and indeed those who thought that things will collapse because you’re going to bring about a fundamental change in the public service role ... you know, let me explain something to you. If you don’t mind I’ll give you an anecdote. So I was younger then, okay, so the public service commission were all white, all male, all nearing retirement age. So we wanted to employ Joel Netshitenzhe as Mr Mandela’s spokesperson. They refused. So I went to see them. I was working with the Deputy President, helping him, so I went to see them. I said: But why are you refusing? They said, no, he doesn’t have a university degree. Really. But he’s been working in the ANC, he’s been in charge of all of these things. No, he doesn’t have a university degree. Well, do you know that when he was a first-year physics student he had the best physics marks of all students in South Africa, when he was doing first year medicine? So, no, we can’t… well, we’re going to employ him. And so they agreed, but at the lower rank, so we said: Joel, take the job and get promoted. Then we wanted to employ Tebogo Mafolo to head the Deputy Presidency office. You will recall Tebogo is now dead, but Tebogo worked with the Deputy President in the international department of the ANC. I went back to them. Again they refused. And I said: No, but the Deputy President wants to employ this person; I mean, who gives you the powers to say no? No, he hasn’t got a university degree, so what? Well, no, you want to employ him as a Chief Director, you can’t employ him as a Chief Director: We will not give you permission. So we employed Tebogo as a Director. Now that’s what we were faced with right in the beginning, so there are many public servants that we inherited who wanted to serve this government and did serve this government, in my view very well. But I think you will understand that for the majority of them they could not write English, I mean their language is Afrikaans. They had been working in the Afrikaans language, and you could see from their reports that they were writing them in Afrikaans and translating them into English. Well, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t know their job; they knew their job very well, but their language is not English, their language is Afrikaans. And so I think that fundamental transformation is something that we should appreciate, that’s the first thing. The second thing would be… and I talked about it and the Minister of Finance has spoken about it and the Minister of Social Development has spoken about it: In ’94 if you were an African you had practically no pension rights whatsoever. None, and if you were working for somebody for a very long time they might give you a watch and say: That’s a gold watch; I’m not sure that there’s any gold in that watch. And so the consequence was that our people who had to retire had to retire with nothing. Today all indigent African women from the age of 60 have a pension, we’ve now lowered the age to 60 for men which will be phased in over the next two or three years. There was no child support grant, now we have a child support grant. There was hardly a disability grant, certainly for Africans. Now we have a disability grant. And it’s a fundamental change in the quality of lives of people who had no income whatsoever, so that today we have 12.4 million people, about a quarter of our population, who are one or other form of social assistance. By next year it’ll cost us over 74 billion rand. Now I think that’s a fundamental change in the lives of our people. But, above all, I think - and I’ve made this point when I spoke - you know it’s very easy to forget what South Africa was before ’94; and I see these young Africans sitting here. I don’t know if they know. What was this country like? The most racist society in the world, a racist society which was the fountainhead for world racism, all of these racists throughout the world used to come and find comfort and succour here in South Africa. All these reactionary forces, you will remember Stroessner from Paraguay; now people have forgotten him also. Who? They were friends of the apartheid regime, the Pinochet regime in Chile. So you had a situation in which our people, the overwhelming majority of our people, were denied even your very, very basic human right. Today we have a fantastic Constitution, we have restored to the black people of this country their dignity which was totally, totally destroyed. We’ve given our people respect for themselves. We have a situation in which even if there are sexists… and even if there are sexists in this room, they’ll be too afraid to make sexist statements. We came out of the most sexist society practically in the world. Just look. Look at the whole public service, look at the private sector and see. Even white women hardly had the possibilities of rising in this society. I know you are sitting here as journalists; you hardly had a white woman editor except if it was a woman’s magazine. Fundamental, fundamental changes here in the quality of life of our people. In 14 years. So we have a stable democracy. We have a stable macro-economic system. We’ve had years of unprecedented consistent growth. In ’94 the country was on the brink of economic collapse. Today this country is highly-respected in the world itself and so I think there are so many changes that were brought about. But we face huge problems. We have said so over and over again, that still too many of our people are unemployed, that we still have far too much poverty and under-development in our country. And people say we talk about an apartheid legacy. What do you think we inherited? A democratic legacy? We didn’t inherit a democratic legacy in this country. We inherited an apartheid legacy. If you want to take the education system you can have these ones. I think some of them are products of Bantu education that are sitting here, where for every R5 spent on a white child, education may be R1 or less to spend on the education of an African child. You had to change that system. Where the healthcare I know will get criticised for this, but ask me who grew up here in South Africa. What healthcare facilities were there for the masses of our people? You were prevented from going to the best hospitals. Even if you were involved in an accident – and I remember there were Coloured who looked very White – and they take them to a White hospital, where they say: ‘Who’s this? No it’s a Coloured, send him to a non-European hospital’. If you are an African, they must go and ask their parents and grandparents, who had to carry a dompass and if you didn’t have a dompass on you every minute, every second of your life you were arrested, even when you were lying in bed and even if you went into the toilets which were all in the yard, and they came knocking on the toilet door and broke it down, and if you didn’t have your pass with you, you were arrested, pyjamas and all. Now we’ve changed it. So, yes, we have many, many challenges. The challenges are going to remain with us. Therefore yesterday, if you listened very carefully to the President, he went back, for example, to the French Revolution. He went back to the Constitution of India. He went back to what Abraham Lincoln said at the time of the emancipation of the slaves, at the formal emancipation of slaves in the United States of America, and pointed out that the fault lines are still there. And it’s going to take us a long time to deal (with), to eradicate the poverty and under-development in South Africa, as it has taken so many years for all these societies, with all of the world that they have, to deal with the things. So yes, there are still many, many problems, many challenges that we face right now, that a new ANC administration is going to face in the future. But we have done a remarkable transformation in 14 years, I think if you just sit back and make an objective assessment of it, you will see that we are not exaggerating when we say that we have carried out that fundamental transformation in the lives of the masses of our people. Of that I am absolutely convinced.

Journalist: I have two questions. The recent xenophobic violence, apparently there is going to be re-integration into communities within the next two months. Do you think that’s a realistic task ahead of us, and Youth Day? With Youth Day coming up on Monday, what would you say to the youth of South Africa…a message for them?

Minister Essop Pahad: I’ll take the last question first. I’m stupid, but not that stupid to write speeches for the President. I discovered that long ago, that’s the wrong thing to do. I think what we will say to the youth of South Africa is that – if you come back to the issue I raised earlier about unemployment – then it’s quite obvious that it is the youth of our country and especially African youth who bear the brunt of unemployment. And more so if you live in rural areas where the possibilities of some kind of economic growth and development are severely limited. So we have to do something about that, to address this question of youth unemployment through training, skills training, all of these issues that the Deputy President spoke about and the figures are quite clear: That 41% of our population are youth, and the longer I’m staying in this job, they change the definition of the age – so now they want to make youth from 14 to 35 – so your definition increases the amount of people that you would consider to be young. And that’s a definition I think that’s in the African Youth Chapter, which Cabinet adopted and which I’m now going to ask the Speaker of Parliament to ratify, so quite clearly that’s a fundamental challenge that our young people face. With respect to the two months, this is the position taken by the Gauteng government. When they raised this I did ask the question: ‘Are you sure?’ and they said, yes, they will do it. I think Gauteng is confident that they can do this in two months. But as you know, the figures have gone down quite considerably in Gauteng. I’m not aware that the Western Cape has given the two-month deadline. I know that Gauteng has given that particular deadline. So in Gauteng, I think just over 4 000 would need to be resettled. So the last time I spoke to them, they were quite confident that they will manage the re-integration process within two months. What we will do is, we will work together with Gauteng as a national task team to try to do everything possible to meet the deadline of two months, because you know we have a national task team that sits together also with Gauteng. I’m just told now by Colin that the Western Cape has also given the two-month figure. So the Western Cape has also given two months. But they have a much bigger task on their hands. We are going to meet soon again, with the people in the Western Cape as well as with the international agencies to just look at all of these questions and see how best we can fast-track it. But let me repeat again and again, our position is very clear. You must re-integrate the displaced persons back into the communities from whence they came. Not easy, but this is what you must do. You cannot … and we will not be party to 'ghetto-ising' anybody. We ourselves lived long enough in ghettos here in South Africa. And that is no answer, to 'ghetto-ise' people. That’s the first thing. Secondly, we’ve said before, we will not encourage a single person to leave the country. It’s not our job either. But those who wish to leave, as those who left and went back to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, we will not create any difficulties for them to go back to their countries of origin if that is what they wish to do. And thirdly, its critically important for all of us to do everything we can, and here I hope the media would assist, I’m not asking you to support the government, please don’t do that; but really to assist in the process of trying to raise the level of consciousness and understanding of our own people about the importance of re-integrating people back into the communities. Because it’s very important when the media is communicating with our people, that the media also sends out that particular kind of message. So it’s not a partisan political message and I’ve said so in Parliament about a week or ten days ago, that this is not a party political issue. We shouldn’t start raising this matter as if it’s a party political issue. This is an issue that confronts all of us. It’s a national challenge and in order to meet it, it would mean that all of us have to work together, and that in my view includes the media, to try to ensure that this thing doesn’t happen again in our country, and if it ever happens again, then we should, all of us together, act in such a decisive manner that we really don’t allow the thing to spread. I think, for me, that is the important message. So the decision is by the Gauteng and the Western Cape governments, not by the national task team: the two months. But from our point of view, of course, we will do everything we possibly can to meet the two-month deadline.

Journalist: Minister, I know that you spoke about – in your previous response – 'ghetto-ising' anyone. Can you just elaborate on that concept of what you’re referring to at this point in time? Is it the safety camps or what is it? And then also, you’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge and we were just wondering if you would be able to share a couple of thoughts around Cape Judge President John Hlophe if possible and the situation. I know you may say to me it’s not your mandate, but your personal thoughts around that.

Minister Essop Pahad: No, it’s not my mandate, so that’s fine. The matter is before the Judicial Services Commission and I think the Judicial Services Commission will make its determination and when it’s made its determination will then have to act on that basis. I think by 'ghetto-ise', you will recall that sometimes some people make a demand that they want to be separated out, and the position therefore, as I said, which we took is that they might be re-integrated into the community from where they came, not necessarily to put them in places where you would have different groups of people coming from different countries all living together. It’s a natural tendency, of course, when you go to another country, you tend to want to stay with people that you know best. Go to Perth now in Australia and see how the South Africans tend to congregate together. Those of us who were in exile had friends who were outside the South African circle. And that’s normal. People will tend to be together with people that they know who share the same language, share the same culture, have some of the same traditions, eat the same kind of food and so on and so forth. But what we want to do is to create a society in which everybody should feel comfortable and that’s what I meant by saying not to 'ghetto-ise' people.

Journalist: Looking back again Minister, do you think South Africa will live to regret the arms deal or can you say with conviction that it was the right thing to do for South Africa?

Minister Essop Pahad: No, I don’t. If you are a pacifist, no arms deal is a good thing. I think that’s obvious. What we have said is – and let me repeat this again – in our view there was no corruption in the main deal. What we have said is… and let me repeat this again… that in our view there was no corruption in the main team. If there was in the secondary contracts, that had nothing to do with the government. But I don’t want to say more because I have agreed both with the Reverend Chikane as well with Minister Erwin that we were then going to call a proper briefing with the two of them, with editors and senior correspondents, so that they can deal with this matter in some detail, with respect to actually what happened. I, myself, at least on three occasions, had briefings with the media, with Minister Erwin, but it’s obvious to me that perhaps our version of what happened is not finding, if you like… what’s the word I’m looking for… well, that people perhaps are sceptical about what we are saying about the arms deal itself. And so we are going to do that. It’s just a matter of finding a right time for both the Reverend Chikane as well as Minister Erwin, for us to do this. But I insist that we still remain convinced that there is no evidence that has been placed before us to indicate that there was any corruption in the primary contracts with regard to the arms deal. Whether or not we should spend money on the defence force, well, yes, we will. We have a South African National Defence Force; the South African National Defence Force has responsibilities. They also have responsibilities outside of South Africa, and therefore as a national defence force they also need to have the kind of equipment which will enable them to carry out their responsibilities. So the only country in the world that I know of that doesn’t have a defence force; I think it’s Costa Rica, if I’m not mistaken. But the rest of them do have a defence force. So, yes, we will have to continue to upgrade our equipment and everything else in terms of the requirements of the South African National Defence Force.

- End -

Colin Cruywagen
Cell: 082 377 9916

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)



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