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S Africa to release report on Iraq’s oil-for-food

Published on 18/10/2011

South Africa will soon release a report into alleged corruption in the now-defunct UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq, which reportedly implicates senior ruling party officials, the presidency said on Tuesday.

“The President has decided to release the report, after careful consideration, in recognition of the public interest in the subject matter,” a statement said, referring to the Donen Commission of Inquiry into South African involvement in the oil-for-food programme.

“It will be available to the public no later than the 7th of December.”

Former president Thabo Mbeki ordered the report in February 2006 into what has become known here as “Oilgate,” and it was drawn up several months later, but never made public.

Reports in the local press say that they implicate senior officials in the Afican National Congress (ANC) ruling party, including current Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe and Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

Both are considered as potential rivals to current President Jacob Zuma ahead of an ANC congress in 2012 which will choose a new leadership.

Tuesday’s statement warned that the report’s findings were not final.

“The Presidency is aware of the potential misuse of the contents of the report,” it said. “We wish to caution that the comments made in the report about individuals must not be elevated to findings of fact as these were interim and untried comments.”

“Those who were caught up in the subject matter of the inquiry did not have an opportunity to deal with their alleged involvement fully.”

“In addition, it must be emphasised that the Donen Report clearly established that the conduct of the individuals from South Africa affected by the report does not constitute any offence under South African law.”

The Cape Argus newspaper had appealed to the nation’s High Court asking for the report to be released.

The UN oil-for-food programme ran from 1996 until 2003, when US-led forces invaded Iraq.

It allowed Baghdad to sell limited amounts of oil to fund UN-supervised imports of humanitarian goods which the country lacked because of tight UN sanctions imposed after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

The government of Saddam Hussein allegedly embezzled millions of dollars from the scheme, sparking a scandal that caused major embarrassment to the United Nations.