SA exports billions in arms

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe

Durban - The committee that oversees and approves South African conventional weapons exports last year issued 4 407 permits to export arms worth R13 billion to 94 countries.

This has emerged in Parliament, with a disclosure that police have investigated 48 potential export contraventions since 2009.

But in only two cases have companies - one Durban-based - been fined after pleading guilty.

The National Prosecuting Authority declined to prosecute in 16 instances. Twenty-nine cases, including alleged contraventions by arms manufacturers Denel and Armscor or their subsidiaries, remain under police investigation.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe chairs the national conventional arms control committee.

He told Parliament it appeared the contraventions revolved around misrepresentation on end-user certificates, using expired export authorisations or exporting without the required permits.

Administrative warnings were issued to eight defaulting companies for clearing goods through customs without an import permit or using unregistered freight forwarders.

On Tuesday Imperial Armour of Durban, fined R100 000 last year, said the matter arose over the export of riot-control gear which it had believed at the time did not require permits.

Louisa Garland-Els, managing director of the company, which has four times been honoured by the Durban Chamber of Commerce, said though it had become easier to obtain information from the arms control committee, the committee was “not really forthcoming” with information.

Abrie van Wyk, of Apex Truck and Trailer in Gauteng, said the company was fined R60 000 after it resold a vehicle stripped of all military capabilities and equipped with air-conditioning. The company was not aware this required a permit.

Permits are needed for controlled items such as munitions, dual-use goods and technologies.

However, the arms committee’s annual report to Parliament itemising what has been exported was criticised by DA defence spokesman David Maynier.

Maynier called on Radebe to reissue the annual report with the required level of disclosure.

“My concern is the level of disclosure to Parliament is so low that we are not sure what we are exporting. Parliament is not in a position to assess the risk. We export to a number of questionable countries, but we don’t know what we are exporting.”

A resubmitted annual report would have to outline the types of conventional arms that were exported, and how many.

In a parliamentary briefing last month it emerged South Africa’s exports included 20 Marauder vehicles and five Maverick vehicles to the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville); 10 vehicles to South Sudan; five mine-protected 4x4s to the Nigerian police’s inspector-general; and 20 vehicles to the Spanish defence force.

No attack helicopters, missiles and missile launchers or heavy calibre artillery were exported, according to the presentation.

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