R80.9m in SA arms to Libya: Radebe


South Africa exported military equipment worth some R80.9 million to Libya in the years between 2003 and 2009.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe yesterday in the National Assembly said this included shotguns, military vehicles, ammunition, parachutes and night vision equipment. He was replying in his capacity as chairman of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) to questions from the opposition Democratic Alliance party’s shadow for defence, David Maynier.

A further question regarding the export of 100 sniper rifles and 50 000 rounds of ammunition last year was not answered. Maynier last month in a statement said it understood the rifles and ammunition may have been exported to Libya late last year. “The company alleged to have exported the sniper rifles and ammunition not only lists Libya as a target market in Africa, but also exhibited sniper rifles at an arms fair in Libya in 2008,” he said. “We understand that the export of the sniper rifles and ammunition was authorised by the NCACC.” Maynier did not name the company, but it is known several South African companies have taken part in recent editions of the Libyan Aviation Exhibition (LAVEX) and the Libyan Defence, Safety and Security Exhibition (LIBDEX). The website of Truvelo, a manufacturer of high-accuracy rifles, notes they attended the 2008 edition of LIBDEX.

Radebe yesterday told African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley that there are outstanding weapons orders from Libya. “There are no outstanding orders. We have no requests from the private sector to authorise any exports to that country,” said Radebe.

Radebe last month confirmed South Africa had sold weapons to Libya, but declined to specify what, citing contractual commercial confidentiality. He added that there is no evidence at the time that any of the equipment had been used by Libyan government forces to kill civilians. “In 2010 the NCACC duly authorised arms trade between South African companies operating in defence-related industry and the Republic of Libya. A number of other transactions were also considered at that time,” the NCACC said in a statement. The NCACC has yet to release its 2010 export figures.

However, none of the exports declared by Radebe shows in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms that records data for South Africa up to December 2009. The NCACC’s 2009 report, released in April last year, also does not mention exports to the north African state. The 2008 report does, but gives a “zero” return. The 2005, 2006 and 2007 reports were tabled in Parliament but have never been made public.