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Corrupt Affair, The by J. W. Parker
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Corrupt Affair, The

by J. W. Parker

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The corruptive influences of the armaments industry have fed political intrigue and fictional entertainment since Anthony Sampson’s The Arms Bazaar in 1977. The Apartheid government’s wish to preserve the Old White Order’s status quo in the face of sanctions made rich pickings for arms traders.
The Corrupt Affair has close links with South Africa’s most infamous arms deal. During the National Unity period of 1994 to 1999, there was intense competition to sell warships and fighter aircraft to South Africa. The eventual outcome was the purchase of German-built corvette cruisers and British and Swedish fighter trainer aircraft.
The rumours of corrupt deals have never gone away. Since there is no international threat to South Africa’'s borders, why were these ships and planes required? Widespread corruption was reported in the media as several top names were found guilty of accepting bribes. “A generally corrupt relationship” became a catch-phrase to describe such activities.
The Corrupt Affair uses this inviting background to show corruption’s pervasive influence in an emerging democracy with inexperienced leadership. It spreads beyond the arms industry where it often begins. Henry Piggott is an English journalist in Johannesburg who becomes a successful political editor of a daily paper and befriends politicians and diplomats. The most prominent of these is the ex-Mkhonto weSizwe head of intelligence, Reggie Isaacs, a complicated man who struggles to reconcile his communist ideals with the new South Africa.
The story traces human experiences in the years before democratisation as the country steeled itself for the transition of power between white and black governments. As the New Order begins, the fight between primarily French, German and British arms companies and their diplomatic protagonists unfolds. The German bid for ships is successful but bribery introduces fresh crime.
Henry Piggott wants to know why. His friendships help piece together a 30 year-old covert Israeli-French relationship. It provided military advice and equipment during the South African bush wars in Mozambique, Namibia and Angola, giving them a ‘special relationship’ status that endured during the early years of black government.
Corruption increases during successive ANC governments. Piggott and his friends gradually uncover an international ‘troika’ cabal comprising South African, French and Israeli interests. It influences global institutions and national governments for narrow political ends. The outcome is the testing and production in South Africa of an inter-continental missile with nuclear warheads. In return, South Africa receives unprecedented favours, hosting the World Cup competitions for rugby, cricket, football and as a crowning glory in 2020, the first African Olympic Games.
South African moral thresholds are flexible in the face of improved wealth and employment among its poor black classes. The masses begin to enjoy benefits at far greater pace than ever imagined. The greatest beneficiary from South African politics is Wiseman Moleketi, the Soweto icon, rising from MK terrorist to provincial premiership and a vast business fortune. Moleketi’s lucky circumstances propel him to power when he reveals the President's fatal vulnerability to Piggott. Moleketi becomes President following a compromise brokered by Isaacs, by then the retiring Minister of Intelligence.
The book leaves the reader with the double irony. Only Henry Piggott is unscathed, although even he withholds true but damning evidence that would have blown South African stability to shreds. Reggie Isaacs brokers the deal that installs the malevolent Moleketi as President, knowing him to be the main beneficiary from the Troika. For Piggott and Isaacs, the sum of the evil parts required to preserve stability and foster wealth outweigh the moral obligation to conquer evil.
This is a ‘factional fiction’ novel about modern South Africa’s potential and the opportunity for survival in a fast-changing political climate. It has both currency and insight, helped by the author’s experiences as a soldier-diplomat in the exciting years of 1993 to 1996 in Pretoria. ( )
  BoonDock | Jun 23, 2008 |
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