2010 Annual Report of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee: Meeting with Ministers of Justice & State Security


08 June 2011
Chairperson: Mr J Maake (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee briefed the Joint Standing Committee on the 2010 Annual Report.  The briefing covered the reporting requirements, legislative framework, mandate, composition, structures and functions of the NCACC, the legislative developments during the year and an explanation of the six categories of weapons.

During 2010, the NCACC had processed 65 registration permits, 39 marketing permits, 345 contracting permits, 3,536 export permits, 2,592 import permits and 10 conveyance permits.  A list of the countries to which equipment was exported to and the equipment provided for peacekeeping, military exercises, humanitarian aid and military training purposes was provided.  The total value of export permits for 2010 amounted to R8,329 million.

Members asked questions about the timeframes for permit approval and delivery of equipment; the criteria applied when considering permit applications; the processes followed by the NCACC in carrying out its responsibilities; the reports submitted to Parliament and to the United Nations; if any applications were denied or put on hold; the re-routing or re-exporting of equipment and the review of countries to which equipment was exported.

Members were most concerned with exports to Libya, Yemen and Tunisia and requested clarity on the UN procurement for a peacekeeping mission in Syria.  Questions were asked about media reports concerning the sale of a fast boat and hull designs to Iran; the presence of converted Ratel infantry vehicles in Yemen and the denial of an application for a permit to export aviator G-suits to Iran (which were not manufactured in South Africa).

Other questions involved the benefit derived by South Africa from weapons and equipment exports; the destination countries of conveyancing permits; the effect of confidentiality clauses on NACC reporting; the scenario prior to the establishment of the NCACC; the response to the adverse comments made by the Auditor-General and the ability of the Parliamentary Committee to exercise adequate oversight over the NCACC.

Meeting report

Briefing by the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC)
The Honourable Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Chairperson of the NCACC presented the briefing on the 2010 Annual Report of the Committee (see attached document).  The briefing was attended by the Honourable Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of State Security and Member of the NCACC and Ms Mpumi Mpofu, Secretary for Defence.

The briefing included an overview of the reporting requirements, legislative framework, mandate, composition, structures and functions of the NCACC.  Legislative developments during 2010 included the regulations under the Prohibition of Mercenary Activities Act and the revised regulations under the NCACC Amendment Act.

During the period under review, the NCACC processed 65 registration permits, 39 marketing permits, 345 contracting permits (total value R27,7 billion in 83 countries), 3,536 export permits (total value R8,3 billion in 92 countries), 2,592 import permits (total value R3,9 billion in 59 countries) and 10 conveyance permits.

The lethality of equipment was determined in accordance with the criteria applicable to six categories of weapons.  The countries to which equipment was exported to and the corresponding value of exports were listed.  The most significant trading partner was the United States of America with exports to the value of R3,6 billion.  Details of equipment provided for peacekeeping, military exercises, humanitarian aid and military training purposes were provided.  The presentation included charts to illustrate the growth in exports and the business profile vis-à-vis contracts, exports and imports.

The presentation included the NCACC Annual Report for 2010 and copies of the reports submitted to the Portfolio Committee and Joint Standing Committee on Defence in March 2011.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) wanted to know how long it took to approve an application for a permit and how long it took for the equipment to be delivered once approval was granted.  She asked what was taken into consideration before applications for permits were granted.  She acknowledged that the report dealt with the period 2010 but noted that exports to Libya, Yemen and Tunisia were reported.  She asked if the NCACC was satisfied that the exports to these countries did not compromise South Africa’s standing and were in accordance with the NCACC Act.  She asked if arms could be recalled or re-exported and if the NCACC exercised any control over the re-routing of arms to another country.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked if the NCACC authorised the export of sniper rifles and ammunition to Libya during 2010.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) understood that the NCACC regulated the sale of conventional arms.  He wanted to know what processes were followed by the Committee in exercising its responsibility.  He asked what guided the decision on whether or not arms were sold to a particular country and what the benefit was to sell weapons to other countries.

Mr M Steele (DA) asked if the authorization of permits to certain countries had been placed on hold during the year under review.

Mr P Pretorius (DA) asked if the report submitted by the NCACC to Parliament was the same report that the Committee was required to submit to the United Nations (UN).

Mr Radebe replied that the NCACC met once a month and the approval of applications for permits therefore took on average one month.  The delivery period was dependent on the applicable shipping arrangements.  There were different categories of permits.  The NCACC had the right to halt the export of equipment if something happened in the receiving country after the permit was granted.

Mr Radebe acknowledged that arms were exported to Libya, Tunisia and Libya during 2010.  Section 15 of the NCACC Act provided guidance to the Committee and each application was assessed according to its merits.  Factors taken into account included the interest of South Africa, whether the weapons would be used in the oppression of the population, whether the weapons would aid terrorism and if any UN Security Council sanctions were in place.  The NCACC made use of Government agencies such as the National Intelligence Agency and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to obtain reports and assessments.  Applications for permits to export equipment to the North African countries were denied since the unrest started in those countries.  He confirmed that there had been no exports to these countries in 2011.  Applications for export permits to Gabon, Syria, Namibia and Libya had been placed on hold.

Mr Radebe explained that the NCACC worked closely with DIRCO, the Department of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Intelligence Agency, the South African Secret Service and the South African Police Service.  The criteria applied by the Committee were specified in the NCACC Act.  The NCACC submitted an annual report to the United Nations.

Mr Maynier noted that Mr Radebe did not respond to his question concerning sniper rifles to Libya.

Mr Maziya called a point of order as Mr Radebe had confirmed that weapons were exported to Libya during 2010.

The Chairperson observed that Mr Maynier specifically asked about sniper rifles.  The information provided only specified the categories of weapons.

Mr Radebe confirmed that export permits for category A equipment to Libya was approved during 2010.

Mr Maziya enquired how the dealing in weapons was regulated before the establishment of the NCACC.

Ms Daniels noted that her questions concerning re-routing and re-exporting had not been responded to.  She asked what the NCACC’s responsibility was concerning conveyancing permits.

Mr D Bloem (COPE) was concerned that South Africa was doing business with countries that were ‘in trouble’.  Section 14 of the NCACC Act clearly specified that permits for exports to such countries should be cancelled.  He asked if the NCACC reviewed the countries to which weapons were exported.

Mr Maynier insisted on a response to his question on sniper rifles from Mr Radebe.

The Chairperson replied that the information on the categories of weapons exported to Libya was included in the NCACC’s Annual Report.

Ms Daniels added that the NCACC had provided the information in accordance with the legal reporting requirements.

Mr Radebe explained that Armscor had engaged in manufacturing, trading as well as regulating activities in the past.  Subsequently, the NCACC was established as the regulating authority, Armscor became the procurement agency and Denel was the manufacturing entity.  Each export contract had to have an end-user certificate to prevent re-routing.  The NCACC had a Scrutiny Committee and countries were reviewed at all Committee meetings to consider applications.  For example, the NCACC had decided to deny applications for exports to the North African and Middle Eastern countries currently experiencing unrest.

Mr Cwele explained that re-routing and re-exporting was the same thing and application had to be made to South Africa for approval.  The NCACC endeavoured to be pre-emptive and conducted its own assessments before granting approval for permits.

Ms Mpofu explained that consignments routed through South Africa were checked by the NCACC, which reserved the right to refuse a conveyancing permit.  Factors taken into account included the manner in which the equipment was transported and the ultimate destination.

Mr Radebe expressed displeasure at Mr Maynier’s insistence on his response.  He felt that the question was adequately responded to.

Mr Bloem thanked the NCACC for the assurance that South African equipment was not exported to countries experiencing unrest.

Mr Steele questioned whether the Joint Standing Committee could conduct effective oversight over the NCACC without having sight of the end-user certificates.

Mr Maynier continued to insist on a reply to his question.  He said that Iran was considered to be a most dangerous regime and referred to recent media reports concerning the Bradstone Challenger.  A company based in Cape Town had assisted in the export or re-export of a fast boat to Iran as well as in providing fast boat hull designs.  He asked if the NCACC had investigated the matter.  He noted that the NCACC had denied the application to export aviator G-suits to Iran.  As far as he was aware, such G-suits were not manufactured in South Africa.  He asked if the issue was an example of sanctions-busting and if the matter was investigated by the NCACC.  The report included sales to Syria amounting to R8 million.  The report made no mention of a peacekeeping mission to Syria and he wanted to know what kinds of weapons were exported to this country.  Converted Ratel infantry vehicles had been found in Yemen and he wanted to know if the NCACC had investigated this matter.

The Chairperson asked if the fast boat was a military boat.  If the fast boat was merely a speed boat that was sold to a wealthy Iranian, the NCACC would not be involved.

Mr Maynier replied that such fast boats were commonly converted and armed for use against naval boats.  The fast boats were difficult to detect.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked what benefit was derived by the State from arms sales.

Ms N Mabedla (ANC) asked why the report only listed the countries to which equipment was exported.  Details were not provided for imports.

Mr Bloem said that the matter concerning the fast boat had serious implications and suggested that Mr Cwele as Minister of Safety and Security took the matter seriously.

Mr L Diale (ANC) asked if South Africa had formal diplomatic relations with all the export countries listed in the NCACC report.

Ms Daniels asked for clarity on the refusal to divulge information in the interest of the country.  She noted that there were no exports to Iran listed in the report but it was important that the Joint Standing Committee understood any restrictions applicable to the NCACC.

Mr Radebe replied that the NCACC was governed by the provisions of the NCACC Act.  He confirmed that no applications for export permits to Iran were approved during 2010.  He was not aware of the issue concerning the fast boat but would investigate the matter.  The NCACC had approved a permit application for UN procurement for Syria.  He had no information concerning the Ratel vehicles in Yemen but would investigate the matter.  The guiding principles for the NCACC were clear and it was unlikely that export permits to countries that South Africa did not have relations with would be approved.

Mr Radebe explained that the defence industry in South Africa was open and the industry can be readily approached to provide information.  Defence was considered to be a growth industry and the value of exports had increased from R3,6 billion in 2003 to R8,3 billion in 2010.  The industry employed 15,000 highly skilled workers.  A more detailed briefing on the industry could be provided to the Committee at a future meeting.

Ms Mpofu explained that the report was limited to a list of export countries.  The international Conventional Arms Convention formed the basis and was ratified by the NCACC Act.  The Convention required countries to only report on exports and placed the onus on the exporting country to exercise control.  Information on the exports of all the signatories to the Convention was available at the UN.

The Chairperson asked what would happen if the NCACC was refused entry into countries where inspections had to be carried out.

Mr Steele noted that his question concerning end-user certificates had not been responded to.

Mr Maynier requested further details of the UN peacekeeping operation in Syria.  He asked if the NCACC was aware of any re-export or resale of converted rifle or infantry equipment from Jordan to Yemen.  He suggested that the Joint Standing Committee investigated if there were any institutional weaknesses in the NCACC.  He referred to the report of the Auditor-General that criticised the competence of the Minister responsible for approving permit applications.  The NCACC had stated that internal capacity would be increased and he enquired if the organisation had a strategic plan and if it was appropriately resourced.  He said that reporting by the NCACC had been controversial and had not been forthcoming in the past.  Although Parliament had received an annual report for the previous year, quarterly reports and a copy of the report submitted to the UN had not been received.

Mr Pretorius asked for details of the destination countries for the ten conveyancing permits approved by the NCACC during 2010.

Mr Bloem cited Section 23 of the NCACC Act, dealing with the disclosure or non-disclosure of information.  He was concerned that confidentiality clauses in contracts would prevent the disclosure of information.

Mr Radebe replied that the UN inspectorate had the right to carry out inspections to ensure that all Convention signatories complied.  The NCACC Act prohibited the disclosure of information that would be detrimental to the companies concerned.  Mr Maynier’s question concerning the UN procurement for Syria had been responded to.  The NCACC had noted the comments of the Auditor-General and the current Committee was taking the necessary action to improve the operation of the organisation and to address the concerns of the Auditor-General.  He was adamant that Annual and quarterly reports were submitted to Parliament.  The NCACC was always available to attend meetings with the Parliamentary Committees.  The report to the UN was submitted on an annual basis and a copy could be provided to the Committee.

Ms Mpofu added that the NCACC Act clearly specified what reporting requirements were applicable.  The NCACC was not required to submit additional, detailed reports.  The revised regulations under the Act were tabled on 19 May 2011 in Parliament.  The report only listed the portion of the equipment provided by South Africa for the UN procurement for the peacekeeping mission in Syria.

Mr Radebe explained that the briefing document was changed to differentiate the exports to Syria on behalf of the UN from other sales to other countries.

Mr Cwele replied that confidentiality clauses that prevented the NCACC from reporting on the transaction could be overridden.

Mr Radebe pointed out that the NCACC did not engage in the sale of equipment but only authorised the relevant permit.  The NCACC Act made provision for the protection of confidentiality agreements between e.g. Denel and another entity.  The NCACC had to disclose the required export information.

Mr Maynier asked the Chairperson to investigate why the Joint Standing Committee had not received the quarterly reports submitted by the NCACC to Parliament.  He was concerned that the Committee was not able to exercise effective oversight over the NCACC.  Questions from Members were not answered, not enough time was spent on the annual report and the 2009 report was not discussed at all.

Mr Radebe reiterated that all quarterly and annual reports as well as copies of the report to the UN were submitted to Parliament.  He pointed out that the Committee had requested the NCACC to present a briefing on the 2010 annual report only.  He felt that the accusation that Members’ questions were not answered was unfair.

The Chairperson agreed that Mr Maynier’s accusation had been unfair.  He felt that Members were provided ample opportunity to ask questions.  He conceded that Members of the Committee may not be familiar with the NCACC and needed an opportunity to iron out certain issues.

Mr Bloem took exception to the implication that the Joint Standing Committee was not hard-working.

The Chairperson urged Members to refrain from voicing unfounded allegations.

The meeting was adjourned.


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