SA company sold rifles, ammunition to Gaddafi

2011-02-26 17:40

Sniper rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition were sold by a Gauteng-based company to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s government in October last year.

The legislative body that regulates and approves arms sales by South African companies has refused to provide details of the weapons sold to Gaddafi, but City Press was reliably told approximately 120 rifles and 70 000 rounds of ammunition were exported from South Africa.

This follows claims this week by David Maynier, DA MP and spokesman on defence, that these sales in the latter part of last year included more than 100 sniper rifles and over 50 000 rounds of ammunition.

Relying on the “confidentiality clause” in the legislation governing arms sales, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, the chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, said late on Friday that a number of arms sales to Libya occurred last year, adding that they were all above board.

This comes amid reports of deadly attacks on anti-government demonstrators by snipers and mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi, including one incident in which snipers opened fire on a funeral procession, killing 15 people.

Radebe’s statement claimed that section 23 of the National Conventional Arms Control Act 41 of 2002, ensures the confidentiality of all transactions.

“It is for this reason – the need to observe the confidentiality clause in these contracts – that we are not in a position to provide details regarding the nature and the quantities of arms sold when these contracts were concluded,” the statement reads.

Radebe also lashed out at Maynier and the media, saying they have been “quick to conclude that the deaths reported in Libya during the period of political unrest have a direct link with the arms sold by the South African companies to Libya. There is no evidence to back up such a claim.”

However, referring to “the transaction”, Radebe said at the time it was concluded “there was no evidence available to the effect that there would be any political unrest in that country”.

In 2003 the UN Security Council lifted its decade-old sanctions against Libya, including a ban on military sales.

But the preamble to South African legislation on arms sales states that the country “will not trade in conventional arms with states engaged in ­repression, aggression or ­terrorism”.

» The committee has previously come under fire for questionable arms deals.

A report by the auditor-general released last year revealed serious lack of control over exports of South Africa’s vast array of conventional weapons.

Among its findings were that 58 arms transactions took place with clients in 26 countries without the legally required input of key government departments. In the case of 17 transactions, there were no delivery verification certificates and in others end-user certificates were missing, meaning that there were no records of where the weapons had gone.

The report went further, saying that the ministers who sat on the committee “did not understand and exercise their oversight responsibility relating to the issuing of permits and related controls”.

In 2009, it was revealed that South Africa had sold a number of 40mm multiple grenade launchers and glide bombs to Libya.

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