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  Words in the News
  In South Africa, public hearings are due to begin today (Monday, 28 May 2001) into a controversial 6 billion dollar arms deal. There have been allegations of fraud and corruption surrounding the deal since it was signed a year and a half ago. From Johannesburg, Nick Childs reports.
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President Mbeki

28th May 2001

South Africa Arms Deal

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    Opinion on these hearings is divided, just as it is over the whole arms deal. Supporters say the public inquiry is a genuine effort to provide some background and context to the controversial deal. Critics say it'll be a whitewash that could undermine and prejudice the three separate criminal investigations which are also underway. Since the contract was signed at the end of 1999, its opponents have accused senior officials of the governing African National Congress of corruption. One of the allegations has involved the alleged supply of luxury cars to senior officials. One of those in the spotlight is the ANC's chief whip, Tony Yengeni. The government of President Thabo Mbeki has been attacked for its handling of the affair and its been accused of attempting a cover-up. Its appeared increasingly on the defensive. Among the claims are that it's sidelined the country's most effective investigation unit in the probes which have been set up.
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arms deal: an agreement to sell or buy weapons, tanks, planes and other types of military equipment.

whitewash: an attempt to hide unpleasant facts about something

undermine: if something is undermined then its ability to do something is weakened

dishonesty and illegal behaviour (by people in positions of power or authority)

in the spotlight: if you are in the spotlight then you
are receiving a lot of public attention

(in this case) strongly criticised

cover-up: an attempt to hide a crime or mistake

sidelined: if you sideline someone, you make them seem unimportant and stop them being included in what other people are doing

probes: investigations

NEWS 2    Audio Listen to the second part of the report
    The deal has become one of the most highly charged issues facing President Mbeki's administration and has provided ammunition for wider criticism of his leadership. The ANC has consistently denied the allegations, and while there's been much heat, there's been little actual light shed on the charges. But as well as the claims of corruption, there's also been growing criticism over the mushrooming cost of the deal. The government says the armed forces urgently need modernisation, but opponents say the country can't afford it, and the money would be better spent elsewhere.
    Audio Listen to the words

highly charged issues: an issue is an important subject that people are discussing, a highly charged issue is a subject that has become very tense and emotional

facing: if you face something, then you have to deal with it

wider criticism: if there is wider criticism of something then even more people are expressing their disapproval of it

heat: (in this case) intense or highly focussed attention

light shed on: if you shed light on something then you provide information or facts about it

mushrooming: quickly increasing in size or quantity (like the mushroom shaped cloud of an atomic bomb explosion)

modernisation: if you modernise something then you introduce new equipment and/or methods of working

better spent elsewhere: if money is better spent elsewhere, then that money would be more effectively used to buy something different to what it was already being spent on

    Read about the background in BBC News Online

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