Defence industry benefits wider SA economy


The South African defence industry contributes significant positive spin-offs for the macro-economy of the country, says the Chief Executive Officer of PMP, Carel Wolhuter. Speaking at a media event hosted by Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP), Wolhuter (pictured, centre) said the contribution of the defence sector should be evaluated within the context of a world economic scene that is in turmoil.

Major uncertainties exist in the USA, Greece, Italy, Spain and of late, France. The disrupting effects spill over into countries where the economies are fairly sound, and economic recovery remains sluggish.

PMP is one of the large business entities in the Denel Group, and is internationally renowned for world-class military and commercial small and medium calibre ammunition. It employs about 1300 people, exports 30 – 40% of its turnover and earns between R200 million and R300 million in foreign exchange annually for South Africa.

Wolhuter said that although the company’s main business is military, around 35% of its products are destined for the civilian market. In most South African homes, there will be products that originate from PMP. These can be electrical components manufactured down-stream from brass strip originating from PMP’s furnaces and rolling mills, or commercial ammunition for self-defence, sport shooting or hunting purposes.

PMP also sells foil strip as thin as 0.05 mm to the private sector. This is used in the manufacture of switchgear in electrical applications and industrial heat exchangers. Wolhuter pointed out that even hospitals and veterinary clinics benefit from the foil strip, as it is used in cladding in sterile environments due to copper’s favourable microbial effects.

In addition, PMP is a strategic supplier of primary explosives to SASOL and AEL, from which detonators for the mining industry are manufactured. Eventually, 90% of South Africa’s mines are thus indirectly dependent on successful manufacturing operations at PMP. It is for this reason that a modern explosive facility was opened at PMP on September 30.

Another product manufactured in PMP’s military factories, is the Probit drill-bit used by mines to drill the holes where dynamite must be inserted. Production machines for medium calibre ammunition are thus more effectively utilised. PMP’s military products consist of small calibre ammunition (9mm – 12.7mm), medium calibre ammunition (20mm – 35mm) and escape systems for aircraft and helicopters. During the “Border War” up to two million small calibre rounds were manufactured daily. Currently production levels are between 80 and 100 million rounds per year.

The main local customers are the South African Police and the SA National Defence Force. Exports take place to various countries as approved by the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, mainly in Europe, Middle East, South America and the Far East.