Bloomberg Businessweek

By Mike Cohen

October 27, 2011

(Updates with comment from justice minister in third paragraph.)

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) — South Africa’s government said a panel appointed to probe graft allegations related to its purchase of weapons in the late 1990s from companies including ThyssenKrupp AG, BAE Systems Plc and Saab AB will be given sweeping powers to do its work.

The commission, which will have a 40 million rand ($5 million) budget, will have search and seizure powers as well as the ability to subpoena witnesses and compel them to answer questions, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said.

The investigation is “a watershed moment in the history of democratic South Africa,” he told reporters in Cape Town today. “This commission will work independently of everyone, including the executive. Its credibility remains paramount.”

The government has been fending off allegations that officials received bribes from companies that won contracts to supply it with jet fighters and trainers, warships, helicopters and submarines worth about 29 billion rand over the past 12 years. The Hawks, the investigative unit of the police, last year halted its probe into the allegations, saying it was unlikely to secure further convictions…Read more.