DA wants answers over Madagascar arms deal
Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance has called for an investigation into a claim that South Africa was used as a transit point for riot-control weapons by ousted Madagascan president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009.
The claim was contained in a leaked US state department diplomatic cable, the Sunday Independent newspaper reported.
DA defence spokesperson David Maynier said National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) chair Jeff Radebe should immediately authorise an investigation into the cable's details.
"Recognising that his security forces lacked proper riot control gear, the president [Marc Ravalomanana] has embarked on a buying spree of riot control gear from suppliers in China, using South Africa as a transit point," the US state department claimed in the cable dated March 4 2009.
"On at least two separate occasions, confirmed by RSO airport police contacts, the president has utilised his company's privately owned aircraft, a ATR 42-320 registration #5R-MJT and affectionately named Tiko Air, to fly to South Africa to pick up much needed riot control gear (shields, body armor, tear gas, rubber bullets, and uniforms) for his security forces," the cable continued.
"Bypassing the cumbersome customs bureaucracy, the aircraft arrives at Ivato International's military section where it is unloaded and hauled off by military trucks for their immediate deployment to the security forces making up the EMMO-Nat (Etat-Major Mixte Operationnel au Niveau National) units."
Maynier said the NCACC was required to authorise the transport of any conventional arms through or over South African territory or territorial waters by issuing a conveyance permit.
"The NACACC's 2009 annual report shows that no conveyance permits were issued."
This suggested that Ravalomanana's attempt to import riot control gear, using South Africa as a transit point, may have been illegal.
"This is not the only suspicious sale of conventional arms prior to Madagascar coup," Maynier said.
The NCACC also authorised the sale of R2 347 000 of riot control equipment to Madagascar the same year.
The arms deal was authorised in record time and on an ad hoc basis by the NCACC, he said.
"The riot control gear appears to have been exported to military or paramilitary forces just prior to the coup. There was a high probability that the riot control gear would be used for internal repression."
The NCACC should never have authorised the export of riot control equipment to Madagascar, Maynier said.
"I will be writing to Radebe requesting that the NCACC's inspectorate investigates."