A R3.5 billion backlog of South African defence industry exports to particularly the Gulf region should receive attention from “senior government authorities” in the interest of ensuring the sustainability of the local defence industry.
This comment, by Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng, co-chairs of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), follow it simultaneously receiving three sequential quarterly reports from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) for consideration at its final meeting of the year last week. The reports covered NCACC activities for the second, third and fourth quarters of the current year, according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement. They give parliamentarians an insight into what types of defence equipment, ranging from arms and ammunition through to MRAP (mine resistant, ambush protected) personnel carriers, radios, imaging and other battlefield materiel.
The co-chairs admit their committee cannot prescribe any action but believes support “should be given to the defence industry to ensure its sustainability”.
“The growth and strength of the South African defence industry is dependent on receiving and satisfying orders critical to growing the economy and creating much-needed job opportunities. Despite this, the committee emphasises the need for a balance between adhering to international obligations, addressing proliferation concerns, preserving jobs in the arms industry and ensuring compliance with legislation,” the statement reads, adding legislative compliance remains “a huge preoccupation”.
The JSCD welcomes assurances South Africa, through the NCACC, continues to follow strict international guidelines on arms trade.
Operational improvements at the NCACC, which resorts in the Department of Defence (DoD), includes migration of application and approval processes from manual to electronic to eliminate backlogs. The JSCD wants the NCACC IT (information technology) project completed to “ensure agility in the process and enable adherence to contract deadlines”.
In the first quarter of 2021 the NCACC authorised R600 million worth of export contracts. In the second quarter (April to end June), it authorised R1.02 billion worth of export contracts and R2.012 billion in exports in the third quarter (July to end September).
This compares with R229 million for the second quarter of 2020 and R740 million in exports for the third quarter of 2020.