The South African defence industry is deeply dependent on exports to the Gulf Region but exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) remain problematic, with R3.7 billion in backlogged exports.
This is according to National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) secretariat representative Advocate Ezra Jele when addressing Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) in place of acting chair, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola last week.
He said due to alleged human rights violations by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Yemen, the Committee took a cautionary approach to export authorisations and held back on ‘the most lethal’ items. The backlog for the UAE amounts to R3 billion and Saudi Arabia R700 million.
Jele noted the NCACC has not cancelled these exports but will discuss the sales with Cabinet before proceeding further.
Exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have landed the NCACC in court. Open Secrets and Lawyers for Human Rights last year, through a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request, demanded to know which companies had exported to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They were not satisfied with the NCACC’s response, and launched litigation.
A summons was served in June but because the NCACC did not respond, a default judgement was issued for the NCACC to provide a list of exporting companies. The NCACC is challenging the decision and is assisted by the State Attorney and senior counsel from the Pretoria Bar.
Jele said Lawyers for Human Rights and Open Secrets “have no proof South African material that went to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is being used in Yemen. South Africa is not the only supplier.”
No less than 35 countries are listed in the quarterly report under discussion at last week’s JSCD meeting. They range from Australia to Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Sweden, the US, the UK, Vietnam, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina, Germany, The Netherlands as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia also feature.
Mozambique is another recipient of South African military hardware, with the NCACC’s second quarter report showing that Mozambique took delivery of two South African built armoured personnel carriers (APCs) earlier this year along with what is only described as an “attack helicopter”.
The APCs are not named and given a value of just over R7 million. It is likely they are Marauders from Paramount, as these were seen arriving in Mozambique last year. The “attack helicopter” is most likely a refurbished second hand Mi-17 or Gazelle – these are also delivered to Mozambique via Paramount.
Jele told the committee after questions were raised about the purchase the NCACC had no proof of violations regarding the sale. Jele is reported as saying nothing could be proved as regards allegations in media reports that private contractor Dyck Advisory Group acquired the equipment.
“Contrary to reports that South African entities registered under the (NCACC) Act violated it, we don’t have anything other than allegations that a company, Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), was contracted by the government of Mozambique to work there,” he is reported as saying.
Jele said the helicopter export was a government-to-government transfer and the equipment would not be used by non-state actors.