SA selling weapons to dubious countries

2010-06-29 12:42

South Africa had sold R13.2 billion worth of highly dangerous

weapons to “problematic” countries in the past decade, the Ceasefire Campaign

said today.

“Arms are not potatoes. The reason we have an act is because they

can’t be sold like potatoes,” said Ceasefire Campaign steering committee member

Rob Thomson.

Five of South Africa’s top 10 arms purchasers – India, the United

Arab Emirates, Algeria, Colombia and Saudi Arabia – do not satisfy the criteria

set out in the National Conventional Arms Control Act.

The criteria in the act assess whether the countries have embargoes

against them, whether they are violating human rights, whether they are involved

in regional conflicts and what type of export controls they have.

“We should not be selling arms to them in the first place, let

alone having them as our major recipients,” said Thomson.

According to the Ceasefire Campaign’s database, between 2000 and

2009, South Africa had sold weapon equipment to 58 countries that failed on at

least one of the criteria.

Of the R13.2 billion of arms sold to the countries, 60% comprised

sensitive weapons, said Thomson.

South Africa sold R1.88 billion worth of sensitive weapon equipment

to India, R1.42 billion to the United Arab Emirates and R1.12 billion to


Colombia received R1.09 billion worth of equipment, while Nigeria

got R84 million of equipment.

“We are selling more arms to the worst countries than to countries

that pass the criteria. More than half of the arms to these failing countries

are significant sensitive equipment,” said Thomson.

“In general, the committee has not even attempted to apply those

criteria and is in gross dereliction of its duty to do so.”

Thomson also criticised South Africa’s arms exports to India, China

and Brazil, saying they were motivated by not rocking the boat when it came to

trade and other agreements between the countries.

“We don’t want to put India, Brazil or China out. We shouldn’t be

selling to these countries.”

Thomson said the Ceasefire Campaign’s database on arms exports was

made up of information gleaned from the Bonn International Centre for

Conversion, parastatal Denel, the Stockholm International Peace Research

Institute and the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons.

South African History Archive (Saha) Freedom of Information

Programme Officer Gabriella Razzano outlined the protracted battle it took to

get the annual reports of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee

(Nacc) added to this list of sources.

She said Saha and Ceasefire Campaign had sought to access the

reports since 2006, but were met with endless delays and sometimes no responses

from Nacc.

“The path of the requests was a frustrating one” she said.

Exasperated and fearful of the cost implications of going to court, Saha and

Ceasefire decided to settle on what had been released informally out of court,”

she said, adding this still left the organisations with “significant questions

that their silence fails to answer”.

“What are they concealing?”

Thomson said the actual information they got from the annual

reports for 2000 to 2009, once released, was “bland ... as if there are no

issues while in an area like this, there must be problems. Even the minimum

information is not there.”

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