A leaked arms industry report has red-flagged serious flaws in government’s conventional arms sales regulatory body, the City Press and Rapport newspapers report. The document – drafted by the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD), which represents the interests of most of South Africa’s leading defence companies – identifies major flaws in the operations of the Directorate of Conventional Arms Control (DCAC).
The DCAC is a directorate within the Defence Secretariat providing secretarial services to the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), a statutory body chaired by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe that comprises other Cabinet members.
The sister Sunday papers add AMD highlighted a litany of woes in its report, apparently the summary of an industry survey, including errors on permits issued by the directorate relating to descriptions and model numbers of materiel, the names of countries arms are being exported to and the dates for which permits are valid; permits being “issued to the wrong companies”; permit applications being “misplaced”; the directorate’s failure to take responsibility for mistakes; a lack of specialised personnel; the directorate’s “obsolete” computer system and fears that it could crash; and, the directorate’s “retaliation” when arms companies complain.
The association presented the survey’s findings to the directorate on June 14 and another meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow,the papers say.
Industry has long been dissatisfied with the DCAC and NCACC but has generally been to timid to speak out, especially in public.
The NCACC also created concern late last year when it provided apparently incorrect data to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. According to data submitted in December, SA in 2009 donated one World War Two-vintage Comet cruiser tank, a Sherman medium tank and three Stuart light tanks to Poland. The Armour Museum, listed as making the donation, is not aware of it. The same report avered the export of two Ferret armoured cars to Senegal. The Ferret was built by Daimler from 1952 to 1971 and some were indeed acquired by South Africa. A number of these were upgraded for 44 Parachute Brigade in the 1980s and one is now a gateguard outside the regimental lines. Senegal may well have acquired two Ferrets, although it appears unlikely. Another apparent mistake was in 2008 when the NCACC reported the sale – in 2007 – of six “RG23” vehicles to an unspecified international humanitarian organisation. It is not clear if they meant BAE Systems’ “RG32”.
After discovering City Press had seen a copy of the survey, AMD executive director Simphiwe Hamilton reportedly claimed it was “not a final/cleared report due to fundamental errors and flaws” that were identified after it was “circulated to some members of the association”.
Hamilton said the directorate had, on three occasions this month, raised concerns about the manner in which the survey was being conducted and AMD “acknowledged that there were indeed flaws in our processes that rendered our findings incomplete and of no standing”.
But Hamilton conceded that the 23 respondents in the survey comprised the “major players” in the arms industry. Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, said the directorate had found the survey “objectionable” due to “fundamental flaws” in the manner in which the survey was conducted by AMD. Tlali conceded that the directorate did face “capacity challenges in certain areas and that there is room for improvement”. However, he said that the directorate remained effective.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in a statement said Radebe “should be summoned by Parliament to present a strategy to stop the administrative meltdown of the NCACC.” Defence shadow David Maynier added the NCACC “is clearly in deep trouble, which not only prejudices industry, whose members are sometimes forced to wait months for permit applications to be processed, but also increases the risk of dodgy arms deals falling through the cracks at the NCACC.”