Concern over ‘weapon’ sales to Zimbabwe
SOUTH Africa exported more than R2bn-worth of weapons in the second quarter of this year but it is the R2,2m sale of equipment to Zimbabwe that has caused concern.
The second-quarter report of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, chaired by Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, says the weapons sent to Zimbabwe were category C — that is, nonlethal “support” items such as radio transceivers, radar, unmanned vehicles and simulators.
But the concern is that after five years during which no defence material has been exported to Zimbabwe, creating the conditions of a de facto arms embargo, the decision indicates that the committee now sees the country as a legitimate recipient. South African law says that arms transfers should not be made to unstable or repressive states.
Mr Radebe was reporting to Parliament in terms of the National Conventional Arms Control Act, which requires quarterly reports to Parliament and the Cabinet on arms transfers by South African companies and imports of weapons by South Africa.
The broad sweep of Mr Radebe’s report says 115 contracting permits were issued and their total value was more than R18bn, with R2.79bn-worth of material exported to 62 countries. A total of 661 import permits were issued, with a value of R611,463,438.
“We should not be exporting conventional arms to a repressive regime such as Zimbabwe,” said Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier. “The fact is there has been a de facto arms embargo on exporting conventional arms to Zimbabwe for nearly a decade.
“I was, therefore, surprised to see that more than R2m worth of conventional arms had been sold to Zimbabwe. We know that the conventional arms include ‘support equipment usually employed in the direct support of combat operations’. However, we do not know exactly what type of conventional arms were exported to Zimbabwe.”
He said he would direct follow-up parliamentary questions to Mr Radebe to determine the type of weapons.
“We are going to have to keep a careful watch that this deal does not open the floodgates for more conventional arms sales to Zimbabwe,” Mr Maynier said.
Another troubled country that received exports of C category weapons was Pakistan, with transfers valued at R21m.
The United Arab Emirates received transfers of R95m, of which R84m was the value of lethal category A weapons.
One of the larger exports was R95m worth of category A and C weapons exported to India.
The largest recipient was the US, which received transfers valued at R1,6bn for category B, C and D weapons.