No sniper rifle sales to Libya, says minister

2011-02-22 14:22

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu today refuted suggestions that South Africa has sold sniper rifles to Libya.

“Have we sold any sniper rifles to Libya? Not that I’m aware of,” she said in response to a question during a media briefing at Parliament.

The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) oversaw the sale of arms and ammunition from South Africa to any other country, she said.

The NCACC had provided a report of activities in this regard, and “I’m not aware that Libya is on the list of those countries that we have sold sniper rifles to,” said Sisulu.

“But if you’re speaking specifically about since the... protests occurred [in Libya], it is an emphatic no. We have not sold any sniper rifles to Libya,” she said.

Earlier, Democratic Alliance spokesperson David Maynier said in a statement that the DA understood that “more than 100 sniper rifles and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition may have been exported to Libya in late 2010”.

On August 6 2009, NCACC chairperson Jeff Radebe had “admitted that Libya has purchased various weapons kinds from South Africa“, Maynier said.

The weapons systems appeared to have included 40mm multiple grenade launchers, Hercules C130 aircraft, and armoured personnel carriers, he said.

“However, in addition to this, we understand that more than 100 sniper rifles and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition were exported to Libya in late 2010.”

This raised a serious question because there had been multiple reports that security forces used sniper rifles to fire on protesters in Libya.
“We understand that the export of the sniper rifles and ammunition was authorised by the National Conventional Arms Control Committee,” Maynier said.

Also addressing the media briefing at Parliament, International Relations and Co-operation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said South Africa condemned the use of force by Libyan authorities against protesters.

“Of course we’ve always condemned the use of force against peaceful demonstrations and against civilian populations, no matter where it takes place,” he said.

Replying to another question, Ebrahim said South Africa had not been in touch with anyone from the “ruling administration” in Libya.

“I must say we’ve been in touch with our ambassador there, first of all to get a report on what exactly is taking place in Libya so that we can get first-hand information, and also to try and ascertain how many South Africans are there and whether anyone is in danger, etcetera.”

However, there were some problems regarding communication, but “we are in touch with our ambassador and we hope to get a full report very soon, exactly what is the situation there”.

“I don’t think it was necessary for us to be in touch with the ruling administration or the ruling elite in Libya, at least from the department,” Ebrahim said.

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