Organised labour in the form of six trade unions is appealing for presidential intervention to shake the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) out of its apparent lethargy in issuing export permits and end user certificates (EUCs).
The unions – CEPPAWU (Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union), GIWUSA (General Industries Workers Union of SA), NUMSA (National Union of Metalworkers of SA), SACWU (SA Chemical Workers’ Union), Solidarity and UASA (United Association of SA) – maintain “a surfeit of correspondence” to no less than six addresses remain unanswered. The recipients include now deceased Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu as then NCACC chair and including previous defence and military veterans minister (now National Assembly Speaker) Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, The Presidency and the NCACC itself.
Other doors the labour grouping knocked on this year and in 2020 were that of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and AMD (SA Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association) before addressing yet another appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa, currently in COVID-19 self-isolation.
“To our dismay, our letters remain unanswered, while the (South African) defence industry hangs on by a knife’s edge,” part of the latest letter from the labour sextet to Ramaphosa reads.
In what is almost seen as a last ditch effort, the trade unions want South Africa’s first citizen to intervene.
They write: “[Our] unions are major roleplayers in the defence industry, representing thousands of members in many SOCs (State-Owned Companies) and private entities”.
“Engagements with management as well as our contributions during development of the Aerospace and Defence Sector Master Plan lead us to the unequivocal conclusion the NCACC is not enabling the defence sector to prosper. Rather, it is having the opposite effect which has to be labelled incongruous.
“At its heart the issue is the preparedness of the NCACC to grant critical EUCs [End User Certificates] and export permits to employers in the industry, predominantly for the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These certificates and permits enable business continuity and are critical for a defence sector largely dependent on international clientele, more than 70%.
“Without urgent intervention, we fear the industry will continue losing critical skills to overseas markets. This will harm our economy and drain South Africa of much-needed engineering and technical skills.”
The letter goes on to point out the “inflexible stance” of the NCACC will lead to local producers losing business.
“Under the current economic uncertainty, compliance and geo-political values must be measured against the pitfalls of a continually climbing unemployment crisis. We must avoid shooting ourselves in the foot,” the unions warn Ramaphosa.
They end by urging Ramaphosa to “make a decision without hesitation, effectively and consciously to the South African defence industry without delay and without fear or favour. Many contracts are at stake and ultimately, more jobs which will place strain on the fiscus”.