The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) approved arms exports worth R23 billion in the last three months, including armoured vehicles that were sent to Burkina Faso in the months before the October coup.
Minister in the Presidency and chairman of the NCACC Jeff Radebe said the report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, showed 31 armoured vehicles were sold to Burkina Faso for more than R70 million in the four months before the October 31 coup, Business Day reports.
Radebe’s third quarter report on conventional arms transfers follows reports earlier this year that raised concerns about arms transfers to Azerbaijan and Armenia between April 2012 and June last year.
The two countries have been in conflict for some time in what at times has resembled a border war. The National Conventional Arms Control Act expressly forbids the transfer of weapons to regions in conflict.
In the third quarter report, Radebe said from July to September contracting permits worth R22.9 billion, export permits for R1.085 billion and import permits to the value of R10 million were approved by the committee.
Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier said he could not understand how the armoured vehicles could have been exported to Burkina Faso in a period shortly before a coup was staged.
“This raises serious questions about the scrutiny committee’s capacity to evaluate political risk and properly advise the NCACC. Surely the State Security Agency and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, who serve on the scrutiny committee and who make recommendations to the NCACC, must have been aware of the political risk in Burkina Faso?
“We cannot have a situation where armoured patrol vehicles, exported from South Africa, grease the wheels of military coups on the African continent.”
Maynier said the report appeared to be rolling back the levels of transparency required by enhanced reporting requirements in the arms control act “by not providing detailed information on the types of conventional arms being exported from South Africa”.
“I imagine this is the result of push-back from the defence industry which is opposed to greater levels of transparency on conventional arms exports from South Africa.”
He said he would write to Radebe requesting an investigation into the export of 31 armoured patrol vehicles to Burkina Faso; and that a revised third quarter report, containing detailed information about the type of conventional arms exported, be tabled in Parliament.
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman held a different view, saying Burkina Faso had always been a peaceful, quiet backwater where there was no armed banditry and “it is probable there was no real warning of the approaching coup which could have been reported to the NCACC”.
The SA Press Association reports an appendix to the NCACC report indicates the biggest single authorised export deal is for the supply of six large calibre artillery pieces, described as “gun/howitzer”, to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at a cost of R229.2 million.
The second-largest is seven “turret, light combat”, with the final export destination listed as Malaysia. The value is R2.6 million.
The greatest quantity of authorised export armaments are bombs and rockets. A total of 16 762 high explosive, 2 376 illuminating and 9 504 smoke mortar bombs are marked down for the UAE.
The Netherlands is listed to have received 26 000 mortar bombs.
The UAE is also down for 10 lots of so-called imaging or counter-measure equipment, described as “system, airborne observation”, valued at R90 million.
A total of 50 armoured combat vehicles are authorised for export to various African countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger and Senegal, as well as African Union operations in Somalia. The total value of these is about R124 million.
A further appendix lists authorised imports, the most expensive of which is a R6 million “thermal imager” from Switzerland.