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Actions by a senior Department of Trade and Industry official could have led to South Africa being accused of breaching the UN arms embargo against Iran.
While the DTI has agreed to take steps against the official and draw up rules to prevent a recurrence, the DA is calling for a policy overhaul at the department.
The official wrote a letter of support for a South African company, 360 Aviation, that was seeking a R2 billion deal that involved exporting Bell helicopters and spare parts to Iran.
It never flew, however – fortunately for South Africa, because the UN ban on selling military equipment to Iran had already kicked in.
After a report in the Sunday Times – which also implicated Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s partner, Gugu Mtshali – Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies ordered the investigation.
The probe, by Grant Thornton Business Risk Services, did not extend to Mtshali’s alleged involvement, which she denied.
Motlanthe immediately asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate, and she is expected to conclude her preliminary report soon.
Grant Thornton’s report recommends disciplinary action against senior official Riaan le Roux for exposing the country to the risk of “being accused of engaging in sanction-busting deals with Iran”.
It reveals the DTI has no policy for letters of support – aimed at facilitating South African companies doing business abroad and recommends that one be developed.
DA MP David Maynier was pleased Davies had launched the probe, but said he felt it did not go far enough.
He questioned why no action was being contemplated against other officials implicated.
Maynier said while there was a need for policy on letters of support, it was more important to put measures in place that would enable the DTI to monitor trade with countries that were affected by arms embargoes or other trade sanctions.
“We cannot allow the DTI – or divisions and sections within the DTI – to become platforms for busting sanctions put in place against rogue regimes such as Iran,” Maynier said.