Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town says a decision by prosecutors to drop charges against South African presidential candidate Jacob Zuma will become a "running sore" unless there is an independent inquiry into the arms deal that triggered a legal process that has gripped the country for more than two years - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.
"How can this country forgive unless we know who we are forgiving and for what?" Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said in a 20 April 2009 speech to the Cape Town Press Club, The Cape Times newspaper reported.
South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority had on 6 April announced it was dropping charges against Zuma, president of the ruling African National Congress, 16 days before national elections, saying the chief investigator had abused his position. Zuma has repeatedly denied allegations of graft, racketeering and money laundering over the 1999 multi-billion-dollar arms deal.
"Frankly, the NPA issue will be a permanent running sore on the body politic unless we go back to the beginning," Makgoba said. "Truth starts with a proper commission of inquiry into the arms deal."
Zuma is seen as virtually certain to be elected by South Africa's parliament as the country's president after the 22 April elections, when the ANC is tipped to win between 60 and 70 percent of the vote.
The Rev Mvume Dandala, a Methodist cleric who is the presidential candidate for the Congress of the People party, an ANC breakaway, said he would reopen an investigation of the arms deal if COPE won the elections.
"Whoever gets fingered - even if those people are serving in the Congress of the People - they will have to face the law and have their names cleared or take the consequences of their actions," the BBC on 20 April reported Dandala as saying.
Campaigning in March, Dandala, the former general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, had already said he would start investigations into alleged corruption in the awarding of military tenders if elected the country's president.
"We have been concerned at the dilly-dallying in dealing with the arms scandal," Dandala told students at the University of Pretoria.
South African Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu and former president F.W. de Klerk had in December urged President Kgalema Motlanthe to establish an inquiry into the arms deal before the general election.
Under the arms deal that was signed with armaments makers from mainly European countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Italy, South Africa was to modernize its national defence force with equipment, which included the purchase of corvettes, submarines, light utility helicopters, tanks, lead-in fighter trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft. There have been allegations that large sums of the money earmarked were siphoned off into politicians' or party coffers rather than buying the armaments.
With acknowledgements to Ecumenical News International - www.eni.ch