Along time ago, when the then activist and trade unionist Jayendra Naidoo was put in charge of negotiating the arms deal, I met him at parliament and asked how it was going. With him at the helm, it felt like as good a deal as possible would be struck with the arms merchants from the North, even though a peaceful South Africa did not need to make restocking the defence force its first big purchase. His response surprised me. It was full of swagger and bravado. "Why? Do you want a ride in one of the machines?" It was the last thing on my wish list, but his attitude made it clear that the merchants had done their job of selling our trade negotiators things we didn't need at a price we couldn't afford. The arms deal is a stain on South Africa. Not a single one of the jobs and investment trade-offs negotiated by Naidoo with the big multinational arms companies has panned out, and the price of the arms deal strained the budget when funds were needed elsewhere. Naidoo and his fellow negot...

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