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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Top ANC official resigns
Tony Yengeni and his wife Lumka outside Cape Town court (Pic: Sunday Times of South Africa)
Yengeni says the allegations are political
Tony Yengeni has resigned his post as chief whip in parliament for South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after his arrest on Wednesday.

The allegations that have been flying around which eventually led to my arrest are nothing but a political witch-hunt

Tony Yengeni
He has been charged with corruption, fraud and perjury on allegations that he received a cut price luxury car in return for ensuring a multi-billion dollar arms deal went ahead in 1999.

Mr Yengeni, who plans to remain an MP, said he needed to focus on proving his innocence.

"I cannot continue with being the chief whip of the majority party with those kind of charges hanging over my head and an impending trial. I am innocent and I will prove that in court," he told reporters.

The ANC was under pressure to suspend or dismiss the former anti-apartheid commander who was imprisoned and tortured during white rule.

South-African built Rooivalk CSH2 Armed Attack Helicopter
The government says the military needs modernising

The $5bn arms deal to buy new fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and warships has been a controversial one in a country where millions live in poverty.

Mr Yengeni is the first politician to be arrested following a long investigation into the arms deal.

'Witch-hunt' An arrest warrant was also issued for Michael Woerfel, an official with the European Aeronautical Defence Space Company, who is currently out of the country.

As the ANC we believe in the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Should there be any truth in the allegations against Comrade Yengeni, the ANC will not hesitate to take action

ANC statement

Mr Woerfel was suspended by EADS in July for his alleged part in the deal. The company is partly owned by Mercedes Benz manufacturer, Daimler Chrysler.

EADS has admitted that it had "rendered assistance" to some 30 senior officials to obtain luxury vehicles.These included defence force chief General Siphiwe Nyanda.

When the deal was being negotiated, Mr Yengeni was chairman of parliament's defence committee.

In July, he took out full-page advertisements in newspapers in which he denied that his purchase of a Mercedes-Benz four wheel drive vehicle was linked to the weapons purchase and declared: "All is a witch-hunt."

Mr Yengeni was not asked to plead and he was released on bail of 10,000 Rand ($1,100) from Cape Town Magistrate's Court.


Court documents allege that he received a 48% discount on his vehicle and media reports say that a total of 33 luxury cars were sold at a reduced price to senior government officials.

The ANC says it will support Mr Yengeni unless he is found guilty of the charges.

"As the ANC we believe in the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Should there be any truth in the allegations against Comrade Yengeni, the ANC will not hesitate to take action," it said in a statement.

The case resumes in January 2002 and he was forbidden from leaving the country without alerting the authorities.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | Africa
The rise and fall of Tony Yengeni
08 Apr 01 | Africa
SA arms deal scandal widens
05 Apr 01 | Africa
SA arms deal under investigation
11 Jan 01 | Africa
ANC begins soul-searching
18 Sep 00 | Africa
SA army 'in racism crisis'
28 May 01 | Business
BAE faces African bribery probe
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
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