The short answer is “no”.
Secrecy and arms exports
It is a strange thing that the National Conventional Arms Control Committee has been slapping security classifications on South African arms exports reports – that should be public and unclassified in terms of the law that established the committee – when it provides much of the same information to the United Nations for publication on their website.
It strongly reminds of the infamous situation in 1975 when the entire world new Apartheid SA had invaded Angola, but South Africans themselves were in splendid ignorance because of a government media clampdown.
The law is clear, as is the committee`s cavalier attitude towards it. Section 23 of the NCAC Act reads:
23. (1) The Committee must-
(a) ensure compliance with the annual reporting requirements of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and simultaneously present to Parliament a copy of
(b) make quarterly reports to the Cabinet and a committee of Parliament determined by Parliament on all conventional arms exports concluded during the preceding quarter; and
(c) at the end of the first quarter of each year, present to Parliament and release to the public an annual report on all conventional arms exports concluded during the preceding calendar year,
My understanding is the committee has never “simultaneously present to Parliament a copy of South Africa`s annual report to the United Nations” and has only once since 2003, when the Act became law, made a quarterly report.
As for subsection (c), it is a matter of record that the 2003 report was only tabled in Parliament in 2005 which meant it missed its deadline – set in law – by something of a margin. In addition, the 2005, 2006 and 2007 reports are classified, which means that while some MPs may see them, the general public cannot, making a mockery of the section concerned.
Not only does this insult the public but it makes a farce of transparency and genuine security concerns – after all some of the data is on the UN website!
This type of nonsense must stop.
A leading jurist once said that when “the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law… It invites anarchy.” In order to prevent anarchy, we must ensure that our government and its representatives are held to account.
Bringing the NCACC to order is a good place to start.