Media release: South Africa boasts a legitimate, stringent and transparent export regime for the sale of defence equipment


The South African public has the right to know the facts around defence exports, rather than being fed a mix of speculation and spurious allegations from a lobby group with its own self-interested agenda.

For a start South Africa is globally renowned for its very stringent armaments control policies, procedures and processes. It is, in fact, the only nation in the world where this function is managed at Cabinet level, with elected Ministers rather than bureaucrats overseeing the process in the national conventional arms control committee (NCACC). This committee is constituted of several senior Cabinet Ministers and chaired by Mr Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development.

Moreover, the South African Government has three distinct points of control of defence exports, each of which constitutes a “gate” at which original approvals may be reversed at any time, in the event of a deterioration in the geopolitical or security situation in any destination country to an unacceptable international level. Clearly this imposes a very high risk on defence manufacturers whose investment in an export drive could be prematurely suspended or even terminated entirely.

No marketing, contracting and subsequent export of military equipment or services occurs without the explicit consent of the NCACC and its mandated oversight organs. Even in the initial stages of exploring a new market, a formal marketing permit must be obtained. This is followed up with a contract permit application to engage in earnest with the securing of an order from abroad, with actual exports blocked until a formal export license is obtained.

As the representative body for South Africa’s defence industry, AMD places on record that the defence industry fully and unconditionally supports the South African Government in its efforts at controlling the trade in armaments. It strives to comprehensively comply with all the provisions of relevant national legislation and international instruments.

As required by international law, South Africa lodges its relevant reports to the United Nations (UN) register on conventional arms transfers. Furthermore, the oversight role that is ably executed by the relevant committee in Parliament ensures that the people of South Africa would be guaranteed a transparent and responsible system for defence exports remains in place.

What the public should bear in mind is that like any other industry, defence is highly competitive. For that reason it protects commercially sensitive information, which if made available could be exploited to its detriment by competitors. This should not be construed as “a cloud of secrecy”. Quite the opposite, the industry readily supplies information, with even the state-owned Denel Group being required to publish a comprehensive annual report, which is publicly available.

This gives the lie to the Ceasefire Campaign’s assertion that for its report it had “to settle on what had been released informally out of court.”

Worse, it is a poor excuse to blame their lack of concrete information on industry annual reports that are “bland… as if there are no issues, (while) in an area like this there must be problems”. Such blatant speculation is not only irresponsible but also incompatible with proper academic research.

The shallowness of its research is further underlined by its claims that South Africa was selling to states that ‘no one else wants to export to’. This is blatantly untrue as South Africa’s defence industry competes fiercely with European, US, Russian, Israeli and Australian companies in these countries, besides competitors from other developing nations like India, Brazil, Singapore, etc.

Fact is South Africa’s defence industry has an enviable reputation as a responsible contributor to the country’s economy and a leading supplier of world-class defence equipment. It generates significant revenues and pays taxes, creates innovative high technology products and systems, invests in skills development and is an employer and subcontractor of note.

It should be a matter of pride for South Africans to know its indigenous defence industry is the envy of many others, including so-called first world nations. We greatly value our partners with whom we do business, regardless of Ceasefire’s vilification of these countries. Our industry and armed forces work closely with many African countries to ensure they are capable of equipping their defence forces, especially as part of the AU’s African Standby Force and for peace support operations.

It is high time the South African populace and civil society positively and genuinely engage with our defence industry in a manner that will optimise this sector’s contribution to the country. Thus we could jointly enhance our own and regional defence and security, whilst speeding up South Africa’s economic recovery.

Issued on behalf of AMD, South Africa’s aerospace, maritime and defence industry association, by:

Mr Simphiwe Hamilton

Executive Director

Tel: 012 420 1540 / 082 673 9472

Email: [email protected]