June 1, 2006

Report lays bare apartheid corruption

A report detailing the scale of economic crimes for profit during the apartheid government has implicated several individuals and institutions. The official report which focuses on corruption between 1976 and 1994 scorns "the perception that a democratic South Africa is more corrupt than the previous government." "This view reinforced a misconception on the 'exceptionalism' that the apartheid regime was 'brutal' in the way it wielded power yet 'honest' in the way it managed its finances," the report noted. What is now known, it adds, is that when the apartheid state was at its most repressive, it was also "at its most corrupt".

Released by the chairperson of the National Anti-Corruption Forum (NACF), which comprises of civil society, business and government formations, Public Service and Administration Minister Fraser-Moleketi - the final report focused on the large scale of corruption during apartheid, known as grand corruption. The report questions the "problematic" relationship between hotelier and gambling supreme Sol Kerzner and former homelands such as Bophuthatswana and Transkei. The wealthy Kerzner is the brains behind Sun City - a gambling palace with hotels - an attraction that became home to many prestigious events in the country. Linked to Mr Kerzner is former Bophuthatswana President, Lucas Mangope, who according to the report wrote a letter to Mr Kerzner - requesting him to finance a salary increase for his Finance Minister Leslie Young to the tune of R20 000 - about R109 000 in today's value per year. Also, linked to the deals of Mr Kerzner is former Transkei Chief George Matanzima who allegedly accepted a bribe from Mr Kerzner for game licenses in the homeland.

The report further disclosed how South Africa's Prime Minister John Vorster authorised "secret" funding for the Orwellian Information Department to wage propaganda wars at home and abroad between 1977 and 1979. "This included establishing publications such as government mouth piece, The Citizen and foreign newspapers such as Washington Star in an attempt to earn the apartheid state good publicity around the world," the report says. The 103 page report also nails the South African Reserve Bank for playing a role at the time in 'secret' operations to perpetuate corruption through the shifting of money abroad.

The report concentrated not only on South Africa: Areas identified as having been prone to corruption were the activities of the South African Defence Force (SADF) during their occupation of Namibia and Angola. The report recognises the large-scale destruction of wildlife including elephant and rhinoceros in northern Namibia and Angola during 1975 and 1987. As was found by the Kumleben Commission of Inquiry in 1996, the SADF's military intelligence division officially, though covertly, participated in the illicit possession and transportation of ivory and rhino horn from Angola and Namibia to South Africa.
The SADF eventually collaborated with a "front company" to facilitate the illicit handling of ivory and rhino horn.

Namibia is also mentioned in the report as far as the activities of South African chemical and biological warfare expert Wouter Basson and his covertly funded Project Coast is concerned. The report recognises allegations that Swapo fighters were drugged and dumped from helicopters over the Skeleton Coast while Basson was in charge of the South African Defence Force's chemical and biological warfare programme and manufactured poisons, drugs and other chemical agents for use in apartheid war. "They were to an extent a law unto themselves with little effective oversight over the way in which funds were spent," says the report.

The report also points to allegations that De Beers got away with evading tax on the export of diamonds worth US$171 million in the first six months of 1983 alone. De Beers is said to have exported diamonds through a host of its subsidiaries which each took a profit before the diamonds were channelled through the tax haven of Bermuda. This meant that the Namibian holding company would only have received 86 per cent of the selling price. These allegations against De Beers were investigated and proven in 1984 by Natal Supreme Court Judge Pieter Thirion when he investigated allegations or corruption and maladministration in Namibia when it was under South African control. (Bua News, Tswane/The Namibian, Windhoek)

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