The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has issued a cryptic statement confirming the seizure of an illegal shipment of North Korean arms headed for the Republic of Congo.
Reuters earlier this week reported South Africa had told a UN Security Council committee it had intercepted a shipment of T54 and T55 tank parts. The seizure took place in November, when South African authorities received information that a ship headed for Congo-Brazzaville was carrying containers with suspicious cargo.
DIRCO in a statement today says the South African Government “has taken note of media interest and reports on the search and seizure of military equipment on board a vessel from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) destined for the Republic of Congo.
“The South Africa Government wishes to place on record that the shipment of this nature is in contravention of the UN Resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009) which prohibit the supply, sale, transfer or export of, inter alia, all arms and related material from the DPRK. South Africa is required by the UNSC Resolution 1847 of 2009 to submit promptly reports containing relevant details to the UNSC Committee on the DPRK established pursuant to Resolution 1718 on the inspection, seizure and disposal of the sanctioned goods.
“The South Africa Government wishes to re-affirm its commitment to the rule of international law and strengthening of the global governance system as the only mechanism to advance peace and security in the world. In this regard the Government will, as the member of the United Nations, continue to contribute to efforts to prevent the production and proliferation of illicit weapons that could endanger the lives of world citizens and create conditions of insecurity and instability in some regions of the world,” the statement concluded.
Reuters reported the cargo was first loaded onto a ship in China, then transferred to a vessel owned by French shipping firm CMA CGM in Malaysia. Diplomats said the French company alerted authorities to the fact it had suspicious cargo on board and was not believed to have done anything wrong. SA then intercepted the vessel and seized the containers. It is not clear why the ship had not sailed to Reunion,a French Indian Ocean possession if its owners were suspicious. Neither is it clear what became of the cargo.
The department’s Chief Director for Public Diplomacy, Saul Kgomotso Molobi was not immediately available for comment, his mobile phone defaulting to a Mandarin (Chinese language) voicemail. Earlier this week he told The Times “our navy intercepted a vessel in our waters in November that was carrying a number of armaments and parts to build armaments.” However, none of the SA Navy, SA National Defence Force, Department of Defence or Ministry of Defence spokesmen contacted by defenceWeb were aware of the seizure or the SA Navy’s reported involvement.
Police spokesman Superintendent Vishnu Naidoo could also not throw light on the matter.
The matter was also raised at yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing with one journalist asking whether the matter had been discusssed at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. Performance and evaluation minister Collins Chabane responded that “Cabinet have not discussed the seizure of arms either as an agenda item or bringing it as a form of notice to Cabinet, but the institutions who have been dealing with, they are in charge of the situation.”