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More Political Turmoil Within South Africa's Ruling Party


In South Africa, tensions within the ruling ANC party have re-emerged, as senior leaders call for a probe into President Mbeki’s role in a huge arms deal. Previous investigations found no wrongdoing on his part in the 1990’s arms deal with a German company. So far, the national prosecuting authority says Mr. Mbeki is not facing an investigation.

The party is now headed by Jacob Zuma, former deputy president, who was fired by Mr. Mbeki. Zuma, who’s expected to run for president next year, faces a corruption trial this year in connection with that same arms deal.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the arms deal in question.

“This was a huge deal that was concluded in the late 1990s to refurbish the South African military. Aircraft were acquired. There were some naval vessels acquired, two submarines, and a variety of other military hardware. And ever since the deal was concluded, there have been allegations that corruption was involved. And…Mr. Zuma, the current president of the ANC, his financial adviser at the time was convicted two years ago of fraud and corruption that was connected to this deal,” she says.

Asked about previous investigations, Robertson says, “There have been a variety of investigations, including an investigation that was ordered by Mr. Mbeki, conducted by several agencies, which did not flag any problems with the government involvement at the time. But then there have been subsequent cases following investigations by the National Prosecuting Authority based on evidence that they had acquired. And one person was convicted for getting a vehicle at a much cheaper cost than would normally be the case…. And then there was the case of Mr. Schabir Sheik, who was the former financial adviser to Mr. Zuma. And now, Mr. Zuma faces charges himself.”

If President Mbeki is due to leave office anyway after the April 2009 elections, why are some party members calling for a probe? Robertson says, “I think that certain people in the ANC, not all in the ANC leadership, but certain people…are intent upon trying to go after Mr. Mbeki and his supporters because of grievances they hold from the past where they felt they were badly treated by Mr. Mbeki. She adds that it’s too early to say whether the internal ANC turmoil will seriously damage the party, which is deeply entrenched in South African society due to its role in the struggle against Apartheid.

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