Planned client site inspections seen as potential nail in the SA defence industry coffin


Trade union Solidarity has rallied to support South Africa’s beleaguered defence industry, which now finds itself potentially on the losing side of National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) proposals.

Indications are the NCACC, as the South African government’s regulatory body for conventional arms control overseeing exports and imports, is seeking on-site inspections in countries alleged to be in contravention of international laws involving end-user certificates. This is seen as a way to ensure countries adhere to internationally accepted best practices for arms acquisitions.

The Centurion-headquartered trade union, which is well represented in the government-owned defence and technology conglomerate Denel, appealed to the NCACC to “abolish mandatory inspections” on military equipment in buyer countries. These, according to Johan Botha, Deputy General Secretary: Solidarity’s Professional Industry, can “destroy the South African arms industry”.

In terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act, an end user certificate (EUC) must be issued, which is an undertaking by the government of an importing country to the relevant exporting country that controlled items will not be transferred, alienated or resold without consent of the exporting country.

“Recently a further provision was added for the end user certificate. This stipulates the exporting country may at any time inspect the relevant premises of the importing country. Importing countries refuse to sign this provision because, according to them, it violates their sovereignty. As a result, current importing countries are now considering suppliers who do not have such a requirement.

“This will have far-reaching implications for employers and employees if not addressed”, Botha said.

Taking Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) in the Western Cape as an example, he said the company was already in jeopardy and some 600 employees could find themselves out of work.

“Government’s uncompromising stance on this will inevitably lead to client countries withdrawing business from South Africa. The economic uncertainty currently prevailing and the continued rise in unemployment will only worsen if government does not heed our plea,” he said.

The trade union sought legal advice on the inspections clause of end user certificates.

“The clause is illegal and obstructive and is not in the Act but only in the certificate. The certificate is an annexure to the Act and cannot be more restrictive that the Act itself. This makes importing countries reluctant to sign the certificate in its current format indicating a bleak future for arms exports and job security in the South African defence industry,” Botha said.