SA arms to Libya?


The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) wants the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) to “make a public statement” on the alleged sale of 100 sniper rifles and more than 50 000 rounds of ammunition to Libya. David Maynier, the party’s shadow defence minister, has long kept a weather eye on the South African defence industry’s activities in the now-troubled country.

Maynier earlier this week 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 I 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. Whether any arms were sold or delivered is unclear. NCACC chairman Jeff Radebe in August 2009 said “Libya has purchased various weapons kinds from South Africa”. Maynier adds “arms should never have been exported to Libya.” He adds “the only way to establish the true facts of what was sold, when, and to whom, is to have immediate access to the quarterly reports produced by the NCACC.” The quarterly reports contain more detailed information than the annual reports, including the type, quantity and value of weapons being exported from South Africa.

However “Parliamentary oversight of conventional arms exports has effectively collapsed.” The NCACC’s quarterly reports have been submitted to Parliament but they have never been distributed to members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans or the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. Moreover, the NCACC last appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on September 2, 2009.”

Maynier in another statement yesterday added that a statement from Radebe would “go a long way to clear up the confusion created by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu’s, bungling of questions related to the sale of arms to Libya.” Maynier says the minister first said at a media briefing on Tuesday that South Africa had not sold sniper rifles to Libya – as far as she was aware. “Then the minister claimed that we had not sold sniper rifles to Libya since the protest begun. The minister later released a press statement attempting to clarify her position on arms sales to Libya. The minister claims that she ‘would not have been aware’ of the sale of sniper rifles and ammunition because the ‘selling of arms’ is done by the NCACC.
“However, the minister’s attempt to clarify her position does exactly the opposite because she is in fact a member of the NCACC,” Maynier says. “The minister appears to have tied herself up in a big political knot on the question of arms sales to Libya.” Radebe’s spokesman Tlali Tlali was not immediately available for comment.

Pic: A selection of Truvelo arms as seen at Africa Aerospace & Defence 2006.