Monday, November 19, 2007

What The Media Says: Lies, Damned Lies!

What the media says

Lies, damned lies!

In various editions of this journal, this column has exposed deliberate lies that have been told by some in the domestic and international media, who have the specific intention to discredit our movement, the ANC, and our government.

The work to expose these lies is never a pleasant task. However it cannot be avoided as long as some in the media elect to tell lies about our movement, our government and country, to promote their agendas, as did one Chris McGreal in an article published by the British Guardian newspaper on 13 November 2007.

The shameless fabrications concocted by McGreal derive from the unending campaign by our opponents to invent corrupt practice around the so-called “arms deal” – the acquisition for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) of aircraft, corvettes and submarines.

Over the years government has insisted that the acquisition process resulting in government entering into primary contracts with the suppliers was free of any corruption and challenged anybody with information to the contrary to produce this information.

To date, absolutely nobody has done so. Rather our accusers have been happy to trot out various allegations, as does McGreal. They then engage in the dishonest practice of presenting these allegations as facts, obviously resolved that no ethical consideration, such as respect for the truth, will be allowed to frustrate their campaign.

Challenge #1

McGreal says, “A former speaker of parliament has already been convicted of accepting a bribe from a German weapons manufacturer.” This is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to say who this “former speaker” is.

Challenge #2

McGreal says, “Mbeki has quashed investigations by the South African parliament, the auditor general and the director of public prosecutions into the links between senior ANC officials, the party and the arms companies.” This is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to produce even one fact to substantiate the allegation he makes.

Challenge #3

The truth that is known by everybody, but which McGreal hopes to wipe out from public memory, is that the Public Accounts Committee (SCOPA) of parliament conducted its own investigation without any let or hindrance by the ANC or the government, exactly because we had nothing to hide. As was its right and duty, the executive arm of government, through the then Leader of Government Business, the Deputy President of the Republic, Jacob Zuma, wrote to SCOPA to respond to its Report. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to disprove this statement.

Challenge #4

McGreal says Tony Yengeni “led the campaign on behalf of Mbeki to shut down parliament’s investigation of the weapons contracts.” This is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to substantiate his claim.

Challenge #5

The Parliamentary Committee recommended that various state organs should conduct an investigation into the defence procurement. As a result, our country’s Auditor General, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and the Public Protector carried out this work jointly and submitted their Report to Parliament. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to demonstrate that what we have said is untrue.

McGreal says “the South African air force’s requirements (for a trainer aircraft) could have been adequately met through the cheaper Italian (Aeromacchi) bid (instead of the more expensive BAe Systems bid).” But what are the facts!

The truth is that once the decision was taken to acquire the Gripen fighter-aircraft for the airforce, it was clear that it would be incorrect to acquire the Aeromacchi trainer. This was for the simple reason that it would not be possible to graduate from the Aeromacchi trainer to fly the Gripen.

Challenge #6

The BAe Systems Hawk satisfied the requirements for a trainer to prepare pilots to fly the Gripen. Had we bought the Aeromacchi trainer, we would still have to buy the Hawk and use the Italian trainer to prepare pilots to fly the Hawk, despite the fact that our airforce already has trainers to prepare pilots to fly this aircraft. Clearly it would be absurd to proceed in this manner. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to demonstrate that what we have said is false.

Challenge #7

McGreal says our airforce was “strongly opposed to buying the British fighters”. This is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to substantiate his claim.

Challenge #8

McGreal also says “the secretary of defence, Pierre Steyn, later resigned over what he described to investigators as the ‘arse-about-face’ decision in which the military’s requirements were tailored to suit the choice already made by the politicians.”

The truth is that the defence acquisition was based on acceptance of the outcomes of a Defence Review in which the SA National Defence Force was intimately involved, which were accepted by our Parliament and our population at large. What McGreal said about Pierre Steyn is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to prove the contrary.

Challenge #9

McGreal reports that one Andrew Feinstein, a former member of the ANC and MP, “said the politicians decided in favour of the British planes at an ‘informal meeting’ attended by Mbeki, (the late former minister of Defence, Joe) Modise and at least one official since implicated in corruption in the deal. The BAe bid was then presented to the cabinet for approval without any other bids on the table.”

The entirety of the assertions made in this passage is nothing more than a conglomeration of blatant lies. We challenge McGreal to ask his informant, Andrew Feinstein, to assist him by providing him with the single facts to substantiate the claims that McGreal chose to report approvingly.

Challenge #10

McGreal wrote, “Feinstein says that besides eventually shutting down his (sic!) investigation, the presidency also put pressure on the auditor general to alter a report saying there were ‘fundamental flaws’ in the process, (which) was manipulated to ensure the contract went to BAe.”

There was never any Feinstein investigation and no pressure was put on the Auditor General (AG) to alter any of his findings. In keeping with established practice, the AG gave government a copy of his report to ensure the accuracy of the facts that would inform his findings. Accordingly, the government responded to the matter of facts, as required in any auditing process, which also guarantees the AG the right to verify any facts presented to him/her. Again we challenge McGreal to ask his informant, Andrew Feinstein, to assist him by providing him with the single facts to substantiate the claims that McGreal chose to report approvingly.

Challenge #11

McGreal says Tony Yengeni “went to prison for accepting bribes from a German arms manufacturer”. Yengeni was found guilty of fraud, based on the charge that he had defrauded Parliament by presenting it with false information. The assertion made by McGreal is both a blatant lie and is libellous. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to prove that Yengeni was convicted of accepting a bribe by a German arms manufacturer.

Challenge #12

Like others who share his agenda, McGreal does not explain that Shabir Shaik is serving a jail sentence for offences that have absolutely nothing to do with the primary contracts into which government entered, which were not affected by any corruption. We challenge McGreal to produce one fact to show that what we have said is not true.

Challenge #13

McGreal wrote, “BAe, along with German and French firms, have been accused of paying bribes to senior ANC politicians and government officials, and of helping to fund the ANC’s 1999 election campaign in return for a slice of the country’s largest ever weapons buying spree.” We challenge McGreal to produce one fact that has been tabled by our accusers in almost a decade, to substantiate their accusations.

Challenge #14

McGreal said “Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO)...(has made a) request to the South Africans for assistance (with investigations it is conducting into allegations that BAe)...paid (£75m) in ‘commissions’. That help has not been forthcoming.” The assertion about our government’s refusal to “help” the SFO is a blatant lie. We challenge McGreal to tell the whole truth in this regard, including the legal requirements that must be met when any legal assistance is requested, consistent with the obligation to respect the rule of law.

McGreal ended his article, which is made up of a litany of fabrications, by saying “(ANC Deputy President) Zuma is now facing the prospect of corruption charges himself, which may derail his efforts to replace Mbeki as president. He has said if he does land up in court he will name names, and bring others in the ANC down with him.”

We do not know if Deputy President Zuma will be prosecuted. Unlike McGreal, we have never heard him say he will “name names, and bring others in the ANC down with him”. If this is true, and means that our Deputy President will expose all those in our movement who have been involved in corruption, he will enjoy the full and unqualified support of the entirety of the ANC in all its echelons.

Challenge #15

McGreal wrote “Despite Mbeki’s efforts to bury the issue, the graft around the arms deal keeps rearing its head.” Cabinet, led by Nelson Mandela, constituted a Cabinet Committee to lead the defence acquisition process that emanated from the requirements identified during an eminently transparent Defence Review, to which we have referred.

This Cabinet Committee was chaired by the then Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, and included the Ministers of Defence, Finance, Trade and Industry and Public Enterprises. This Committee considered all the bids, at all times sitting as a collective, and made the necessary and considered recommendations to our Cabinet.

Having studied these recommendations, our Cabinet chose the “preferred bidders” who ultimately met our requirements, after the perfectly normal negotiations with them to finalise the detailed contractual agreements between them, the primary contractors, and our Government.

The “graft around the arms deal” alleged by McGreal could only have taken place if the primary contractors succeeded to bribe the members of the Cabinet Committee and the Cabinet, the collectives involved in awarding the defence contracts. McGreal would have no difficulty of any kind in establishing the specific names of all those who were members of these collectives and participated in the relevant meetings, including the final meetings in 2000. Should he seek this information, we are certain that government would be more than willing to assist him.

It is now more than seven years since the conclusion of the strategic defence procurement contracts – the so-called arms deal. Surely this is a long enough period of time to unearth any wrongdoing that might have taken place during the consideration, the negotiation and the awarding of these contracts.

We challenge McGreal to produce even one solitary fact that demonstrates that any of the people who were members of the Cabinet collectives to which we have referred were involved in any graft. In this regard, of course McGreal would be perfectly free to consult all his informants, including Feinstein, the British SFO, and the others whose interests are and have been served by the propagation of falsehoods that some in the domestic and international media have been pleased to print and broadcast over many years, treating with absolute contempt their ethical obligation not to tell lies.

Four-and-a-half years ago, in Vol 3 No 21 of this Journal, we published a Letter from the President entitled “Our country needs facts, not groundless allegations”. In this Letter our President said:

“In the Biblical Gospel according to St Matthew, it is said that Jesus Christ saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew fishing in the Sea of Galilee. And He said to them: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

“Perhaps taking a cue from this, some in our country have appointed themselves as ‘fishers of corrupt men’. Our governance system is the sea in which they have chosen to exercise their craft. From everything they say, it is clear that they know it as a matter of fact that they are bound to return from their fishing expeditions with huge catches of corrupt men (and women)....

“We should not, and will not abandon the offensive to defeat the insulting campaigns further to entrench a stereotype that has, for centuries, sought to portray Africans as a people that is corrupt, given to telling lies, prone to theft and self-enrichment by immoral means, a people that is otherwise contemptible in the eyes of the ‘civilised’. We must expect that, as usual, our opponents will accuse us of "playing the race card", to stop us confronting the challenge of racism.

“The fishers of corrupt men are determined to prove everything in the anti-African stereotype. They rely on their capacity to produce long shadows and innumerable allegations around the effort of our government to supply the South African National Defence Force with the means to discharge its constitutional and continental obligations. They are confident that these long shadows and allegations without number will engulf and suffocate the forces that fought for and lead our process of democratisation, reconstruction and development.

“However, what our country needs is substance and not shadows, facts instead of allegations, and the eradication of racism. The struggle continues.”

The lies told by McGreal, for which the British Guardian gave him space in its pages, confirm everything our President said in 2003. The struggle continues.

(In this article we have presented 15 specific challenges to Chris McGreal to respond to the assertion we have made that he abused the readers of the Guardian by feeding them a plethora of lies. McGreal may be in possession of facts that would disprove the statements we have made. Should McGreal provide such facts, ANC Today undertakes to publish these in full, to ensure that the truth is told and that we respect the well-established media practice of the right to reply. Editor.)

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