SA authorised R500 million in arms exports for first quarter of 2020


The SA National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) approved 137 export permits valued at over R500 million in the first quarter of 2020 and approved the supply of weapons to neighbouring Mozambique.

This is according to a report tabled at a meeting of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) this week by committee chair, Jackson Mthembu, Minister in the Presidency. He told the committee the NCACC is prescribed by law to report to Parliament and the presentation to the oversight committee was by invitation.

He said South Africa supplied weapons to Mozambique but did not disclose what weapons were involved or quantities. “We couldn’t say no to Mozambique as it is a legitimate government under attack by terrorists,” he said, referring to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province.

Mthembu’s presentation showed South African defence industry-produced goods went or will go to 42 countries authorised by the NCACC. A total of 137 export permits worth R500 million were authorised for the first quarter of 2020.

The value of contracts authorised for the first quarter of 2020 amounted to R7 billion and covered 20 permits to 17 countries.

Mthemthu’s presentation provides no information on exact products or services provided or contracted for or which countries will be on the receiving end of South African defence expertise in its widest sense.

The NCACC authorised imports of defence equipment worth R1 183 736 441 from 24 countries under 97 permits in the first quarter of 2020.

Mthembu also listed what is termed “dual use goods technologies” exports in his presentation to the JSCD. Here eight permits to six countries valued at R1 790 193 were approved in the first quarter.

The meeting also heard the NCACC was investigating South African weapons that have found their way to Libya. The NCACC did not specify which weapons were involved, but photos have emerged of South African sniper rifles and Mbombe armoured personnel carriers in the North African country. The Mbombe vehicles are believed to have been delivered via Jordan.

A topic of discussion was the revised end user certificates (EUCs) regarding post-shipment inspections. The NCACC  earlier demanded it be allowed to inspect customer countries’ facilities to verify compliance and that countries must sign end user certificates pledging not to sell weapons to third parties. South Africa’s biggest arms clients Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates refused to sign and consequently halted much of South Africa’s arms exports.

The NCACC in February said it amended end user requirements to read: “It is agreed that on-site verification of controlled items may be performed through diplomatic process.” This replaces the original wording “It is agreed that on-site verification of the controlled items may be performed by an inspector designated by the Minister in terms of Section 9 of the Act.”

Mthembu said the amendment was gazetted in May. He defended it, saying “we acted timeously regarding the EUCs.” The NCACC has not seen a change in orders since the amendment was gazetted “orders continued as they had been before the EUC and continued after. There hasn’t been any difference in terms of applications we have seen.” The NCACC expects to see any difference in the third or last quarter of 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Naledi Pandor, International Relations and Co-operation Minister and NCACC member, said there is “great admiration for South Africa’s defence industry. We are on the strict side compared to many parts of the world. It is rare to have members questioned like in South Africa. South Africa holds up a high standard of care…industry sometimes believes legislation rather than being permissive is prohibitive in that permits and approvals are required.”