Murphy's Law: The Flying Cash Machine


October 23, 2009: Yet another corruption case in South Africa. This time, members of parliament are asking why the military is suddenly paying $809 million each for eight A400M four engine transports. The price other nations are paying for the aircraft are under $200 million each. The price South Africa agreed to pay, in 2005, was about $279 million, and included training, maintenance support and some spare parts. It is believed that the price went up so that government officials could siphon off large bribes. Meanwhile, the A400M aircraft is four years behind schedule, and has not flown yet. It was originally to start deliveries to European customers this year. South Africa is supposed to begin getting its A400Ms in seven years. South Africa has already paid $400 million for its A400Ms, and more progress payments will soon be due.

Such blatant corruption is not new in South Africa, but lately the crooks have been winning. Last year, the South African parliament passed a law disbanding an elite government investigation unit nicknamed the "Scorpions." Investigations by this unit had led to dozens of corruption prosecutions of government officials. That's why the unit is being dismantled. Corruption is a major problem throughout Africa, and many nations are now setting up units like the Scorpions, after having realized that corruption was the major cause of the poverty and civil wars that afflict most Africans.

But the corrupt politicians and government officials tend to prove very resilient when confronted with the possibility of being punished. Those that cannot use their money to bribe or litigate their way out of trouble, often seek to dismantle the anti-corruption organizations themselves. There is much popular unrest over this sort of thing. In South Africa, the ANC, which has ruled the country since the white minority agreed to democracy in the early 1990s, is breaking apart. The anti-corruption faction is out to start a reform party that will take on the crooked politicians who dominate the government.

At least the corrupt politicians are being challenged, but so far the bad guys are still winning. Africa's future depends on achieving clean, or at least much cleaner, government. Revolutions alone won't do it, because that tends to just replace one bunch of corrupt politicians with a new crew, spouting new slogans.

The A400M has a top speed of 779 kilometers per hour, a range of 7,500 kilometers, and normally carries about 27 tons. The nearest competitor is the American C-130. The most common version is the C-130H. It has a range of 8,368 kilometers, a top speed of 601 kilometers per hour, and can carry up to 18 tons of cargo, 92 troops, or 64 paratroopers. The latest version, the C-130J, has a top speed of 644 kilometers, 40 percent more range than the C130H, and can carry 20 tons of cargo. The C-130J costs about $100 million each. The C-130 has been in service for over half a century, and is used by more than 50 countries.



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