SA arms exports stagnant at R3 billion in 2014


South Africa’s arms exports remained stagnant with R2.98 billion in exports authorised in 2014 compared to R3.2 billion the year before and R10.6 billion in 2012, according to the latest National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) report.

Although the report lists the grand total of exports as R880 million, when the individual exports are added up they reach R2.9 billion. However, the grand total for imports is listed as R200 million and when the individual items are added up they also equal R200 million.

NCACC chair Jeff Radebe delivered the 2014 report to Parliament this week, which covers arms exports and imports from January to December. It revealed that South Africa’s defence industry exported 326 armoured vehicles (mainly armoured personnel carriers) to nearly two dozen countries last year, as well as four mine detection vehicles to Iraq. The biggest buyers were Burkina Faso (31 vehicles), Guinea (32 vehicles), Niger (21 vehicles), Saudi Arabia (100 vehicles), Senegal (39 vehicles) and the United Arab Emirates (26). These vehicles sales amounted to more than R810 million.

Other weapons exports included seven cannons to Indonesia (R7.5 million); 11 turrets to Malaysia (R235 million); four artillery systems to Saudi Arabia (R30 million), six gun/howitzers to the United Arab Emirates (R229 million); four missiles to Germany (R12 million) and five anti-material rifles to Azerbaijan (R2.2 million). The turrets are being supplied to Malaysia by Denel Land Systems for their new infantry combat vehicles. It is most likely that the Middle Eastern artillery orders involve G5/G6 artillery, also from Denel.

The NCACC report stated that 226 40 mm weapons were supplied to Egypt, Estonia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Indonesia. The latter also bought nine anti-material rifles and one 20 mm cannon. Turkmenistan acquired 60 sniper rifles while the United Arab Emirates bought 201 40 mm weapons and 135 60 mm mortars.

Only 212 machineguns were sold in 2014, to Indonesia, Jordan and Oman. Malaysia bought 30 minefield breaching systems while the Netherlands bought 37 000 mortar bombs worth R214 million. Another large mortar contract came from the United Arab Emirates, which acquired 63 370 mortar rounds worth R232 million.

A dozen countries bought small arms ammunition from South Africa, ranging between 300 and 13 000 rounds, although the United Kingdom bought 55 260 rounds of ammunition worth R44 million.

Other exports listed include self defence suites and electronic warfare equipment worth more than R40 million (most likely supplied by Saab), transponders, radio equipment, ‘transceivers’, laser rangefinders, sights, a submarine periscope, binoculars, ‘airborne observation systems’ worth tens of millions of rands, and software.

Unlike in the previous report, the type/model of equipment was not disclosed. “I am concerned that the NCACC’s ‘enhanced reports’ are now being rolled back and less information is being provided, which appears to be aimed at hiding the names of the companies involved in the export of conventional arms from South Africa,” opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence minister David Maynier said following the publication of the report.

He also criticised a lack of scrutiny and oversight of arms exports in Parliament: “It’s an absolute scandal that the last the Joint Standing Committee on Defence hearing on an annual report was on 8 June 2011 to consider the NCACC 2010 annual report.”

Radebe noted that some exports may have contravened the NCACC act due to instability or repression in the end user country. “We continue to export conventional arms to some of the most repressive regimes in the world including Equatorial Guinea, Turkmenistan and Russia. We are going to have to urgently close the wiggle room in the legislation to stop conventional arms being exported to repressive regimes,” Maynier said.

Arms imports into South Africa in 2014 amounted to R200 148 864, according to the NCACC. These included, amongst others, 30 missiles from the United Kingdom worth R23 million, 62 ‘weapons’ from the Czech Republic worth R1.7 million, two armoured personnel carriers from the United Arab Emirates worth R2.5 million, 20 000 grenades from Bulgaria worth R112 million, 3 766 rounds of ammunition from the Netherlands worth R11 million, a R4 million radar system from France, three laser, missile and radar simulators from Switzerland, and several dozen thermal cameras/sights from France, Brazil, Germany and the United States.

The report revealed that R42.5 billion contracting permits were authorised. These are issued for execution over a number of years and are not finalised transactions.