Arms control chaos

2010-01-31 09:08

A DAMNING confidential report by the Auditor-General paints a

shocking picture of the country’s arms control systems.

It reveals that cabinet ministers who had to monitor South African

conventional arms sales to foreign countries did not do their jobs and no

official records exist of where some of the deadly weapons ended up. As a result

some of the weapons might have ended up in the hands of violent dictators and

may have been used to quell civil unrest or landed up in war-torn

countries.

According to the report, South Africa sells weapons to, among

others, Sudan, Gabon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt and Central African

Republic. Not all of these are engaged in war, rebellion or oppression but arms

can easily transit through to war-torn areas.

What should worry South African authorities is that several of the

required permits for the arms sales as well as the verification of the end- user

– to prevent sales to criminals or rogue states – are missing.

The report shows that the system of arms sales controls has

effectively collapsed. The arms include weapons, ammunitions, explosives, bombs,

armaments, vehicles and aircraft but exclude weapons of mass destruction.

The National Arms Control Committee (NCACC), which consists of

several cabinet ministers, is required by law to agree to each transaction and

then issue the required permit. This was not done.

The committee was chaired by former cabinet minister Sydney

Mufamadi for the greater period under review and is now chaired by Justice and

Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe. Radebe says he has sent a

response to Parliament. But the replies to the Auditor-General’s queries by the

director of the arms control committee’s directorate, Dumisane Dladla, promises

no improvement.

In almost all cases the same concerns were raised in the previous

year. In the confidential report Dladla cut and pasted the same ­explanation

word for word from the last one. He did not say what remedial steps would be

taken to stave off chaos in arms sales.

The report finds that ministers in charge of arms sales control did

“not understand and exercise their oversight responsibility related to the

issuing of permits and related controls. Permits are issued without proper

authorisation, delegation or ratification of the NCACC”.

The audit implores the arms control committee to comply with the

relevant legislation and operating procedures. Some of the findings

­include:

  • The register of permits for the international sale of

    conventional weapons is not up to date and some permits cannot not be

    traced.

  • At least 58 arms transactions with clients in at least 26

    countries took place without the legally ­required input by relevant government

    departments.

  • For at least 17 transactions there are no delivery verification

    certificates, meaning arms could have been sold to rogue states.

  • In some cases the certificate indicating the end-user is

    missing.

The audit, which covers the year ending March 2008, lists the

transaction, the permit holder and the “end country” to which the arms go but

not the extent and nature of the arms.

This information is required by law to be included in the quarterly

and yearly reports of the arms control committee. The law requires quarterly

arms sales control reports to be made to Parliament and yearly reports to the

general public. This has not happened since 2006.

“It is solid evidence of administrative meltdown in the NCACC,”

says Democratic Alliance MP ­David Maynier.

“Politicians unlawfully left decisions to be made by officials.

“These decisions are about arms with which people are killed and

about laws which are supposed to keep these deadly weapons out of the hands of

rogues and rogue states.”

“To fix the situation, the NCACC needs to meet regularly, do its

work and report on it fully as required by law,” he added.

Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali ­Tlali, said yesterday the minister’s

response had already been sent to Parliament.

But it has not reached the portfolio committee yet.

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