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Archbishops’ call to cancel fighter contract: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2010 p 8. April 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.

Gripen fighters flying over Table Mountain in Cape Town

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in South Africa and Sweden have called for an independent investigation of allegations of kickbacks and corruption in the wake of a multi-billion pound arms deal.

Archbishops Thabo Makgoba and Desmond Tutu have challenged the ANC government to suspend the deal, which they say will institutionalize a culture of corruption in South Africa that will derail the country’s transition to democracy.

The two governments are expected to sign a £3.8 billion arms agreement this month that will provide advanced military hardware to South Africa including the Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter-bomber.

However, Archbishops Makgoba and Tutu, the former Archbishop of Uppsala K.G. Hammar and the head of the Swedish Baptist Union Karin Wiborn have charged that the funds spent on arms by South Africa would be better spent on social development.

The four church leaders have also warned the arms deal would provide a further opportunity for graft and corruption in the scandal plagued ANC government in Pretoria.

The South African Air Force has already begun taking delivery of seven of the twenty-eight new generation fighters. The £1.9 billion deal for fighter aircraft had won the approval of South Africa’s parliament, which was told that 65,000 jobs would be created to support and equip the new fighters.

These claims of jobs were illusory and the moral consequences of the sale were troubling, the four church leaders wrote in letters published on March 28 in the Times of South Africa and in Stockholm’s Dagens Nyheter.

“It is disgraceful how the armaments lobby abused the goodwill created out of the many years of solidarity against the racist apartheid government to sell the Gripen fighter aircraft,” they charged.

“The absurdity of these contracts is confirmed by the reality that South Africa now even seems to lack the capacity to properly maintain the procured jet fighters. We now call for the cancellation of the remaining contracts, and for a refund of expenditures already paid,” they said.

“Unfortunately the South African government succumbed to economically absurd arguments and pressure from European governments that the arms deal would create over 65000 jobs and thus stimulate the economy. These promises have so far turned out to be mainly empty words.”

They called upon the South African government to set up an independent judicial inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption and kickbacks in the arms deal, and asked Sweden to “co-operate fully in these inquiries” and “suspend the sale of arms to South Africa until the review process is complete.”

The four church leaders challenged their governments to “reveal how public resources have been misused. Errors must be corrected and, as modern democracies, our countries must have the courage to thoroughly investigate what really happened.”

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