Up in Arms: Probing the arms deal in parliament


This is an insider’s story of political drama and intrigue during the Mbeki era when the arms deal controversy erupted and pitted Parliament against the executive. As an independent review panel later concluded, Parliament either lost its way or lost the faith of the South African public during the process. The book documents this specific moment of institutional darkness in vivid detail and serves to remind us that it was not only reputations that were damaged by the arms deal saga but also core institutions of South Africa’s new democracy. Chief among them was Parliament, which, when faced by the challenge to hold the executive to account, failed dismally to engage with core ethical and moral concerns – among them, corruption – that continue to plague the country. But the book is not only the record of institutional malaise. It is also the very personal story of a young female parliamentarian who entered public life with expectations awakened by the Mandela presidency, only to become disenchanted with party politics and with the moral meltdown she experienced within Parliament during those years. Raenette Taljaard has won widespread respect as one of South Africa’s brightest, sharpest and bravest young politicians and political analysts. The youngest woman ever to have been elected to the South African Parliament as a Democratic Party MP, she has also worked as director of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Along with Andrew Feinstein and Gavin Woods, she took a leading role in probing the arms deal within Parliament and calling the government to account. Her knowledge and understanding of what went on is almostunrivalled and she is one of the few parliamentarians who have read in their entirety the secret Cabinet documents relating to the arms deal.

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