The Chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) briefed the Committee on the 2013 Annual Report and the 2014 First and Second Quarterly Reports. At the outset, he expressed his concern that the 2013 Annual Report had been described as "outstanding", when in fact it had been tabled to Parliament on 03 April. He explained that the NCACC was a sui generis Cabinet Committee appointed by the President in terms of section 5 of the National Conventional Arms Control Act. It operated on the basis of international treaties that were binding on South Africa. The NCACC was guided by the National Conventional Arms Control Act, which was the framework of several other pieces of legislation, and was linked also to the legislation on firearms control and explosives. The NCACC had to ensure compliance with government policy and the legislation on arms control and provide an Inspectorate, which would carry out unannounced inspections. The enforcement was based on the need to protect national security and economic interests. It reported to Parliament, with details on regulation, controlled items, exports, imports and conveyance, and the same report must also comply with the UN Conventional Arms Register as it was submitted to the UN also. Full statistics were provided for the 2013 year.
The Minister then went on to take the Committee through reports for 2014, and outlined the change in Cabinet Committee membership in this year.
Members sought clarity sought clarity on how the NCACC dealt with issues of South African citizens who worked as mercenaries, why there was difference between contracting in the context of import authorisation and export authorisation, and what these contacts projected in value, taking into account that the performance of these contracts took several years. They asked for an explanation on the fluctuation of figures between the companies registered and the companies re-registered, and whether the inspectorate had capacity to execute its duties effectively to ensure that there were no loopholes, as well as reasons why some of the applications were refused. The Minister suggested that the NCACC should be capacitated to issue stronger penalties. Members asked that any particular challenges be enumerated and called for comment on recent media reports about procurement of arms by Kenya, Syria and Sudan. Members wanted to know how competitive South Africa's arms industries were and asked about the steps to improve trade on the continent.
Members adopted Committee reports and minutes.
National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) Annual Report 2013 briefing
The Chairperson acknowledged apologies from Ms Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence, and welcomed Mr Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency and the Chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC). He also acknowledged apologies from Committee Members.
Minister Jeff Radebe tabled the 2013 Annual Report, and 2014 First and Second Quarterly Reports. He thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present and said that the NCACC wished to correct the matter of the outstanding reports from the 2013 and 2014 years. He said that although the Committee, in its letter dated 29 July, asked that he give a presentation on the outstanding Annual Report of 2013, this was in fact submitted to Parliament on 03 April, so it was incorrect to describe it as "outstanding".
Mr Radebe noted that that the NCACC was a sui generis Cabinet Committee appointed by the President in terms of section 5 of the National Conventional Arms Control Act (the Act). The Committee might not be chaired by a minister or ministers with a line responsibility interest in trade in conventional arms. Members of this Cabinet Committee included ministers Ms Naledi Pandor (Deputy Chair), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Dr Rob Davies, Mr Siyabonga Cwele, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, Mr Nhlanhla Nene, and Mr Thabang Makwetla.
Mr Radebe stated that the NCACC operated on the basis of international treaties that were binding on South Africa. Treaties were based on international common law, through accepted practice which was morally and persuasively binding. The NCACC was guided by the National Conventional Arms Control Act 41 of 2002, as amended by Act 73 of 2008. The Act also framed the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act of 1998, Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in an area of Armed Conflict Act 27 of 2006. The NCACC adhered to the Non Proliferation Act, the Firearms Control Act and the Explosives Act.
Mr Radebe noted that the duties of the NCACC included, among other matters, to ensure compliance with government policy in respect of arms control and to provide for an inspectorate to ensure compliance with the provisions of the laws he had outlined. Enforcement of the laws was guided by the need to protect national interest, in the context of security and the economy. An Inspectorate was established and was accountable to the NCACC. Its duties were to ensure that the conduct in conventional arms control was in compliance with the NCAC Act and that internal regulatory process of the NCACC were complied with.
In terms of the Act, the NCACC was required to report to Parliament and this report should contain details on controlled items regulation statistics; exports authorised, imports authorised, and conveyance authorised. Moreover, the report must comply with the UN Conventional Arms Register (UNCAR). The same report, after being approved by the South African Parliament, was submitted to the UN.
Mr Radebe alluded to controlled items statistics in the context of contracts authorised, export authorised, imports authorised and conveyance authorised in the first, second, third and fourth quarter (see attachment)
Mr Radebe took the Committee through the Report, but indicated that he would, for the sake of completeness, present the 2014 performance reports in full, rather than concentrating on certain quarters only. He noted that in this year, there had been a change in Cabinet Committee membership and the members had comprised Ministers Pandor (Deputy Chair), Mapisa-Nqakula, Nkoana-Mashabane, Davies, David Mahlobo, Nknosinathi Nhleko, Lynne Brown, Kebby Maphatsoe, Lluwellyn Landers, and Mcebisi Jonas.
For this year, Mr Radebe then provided detailed controlled items statistics, in the categories of export, import and conveyance authorisation (see attachment for full details)
Mr S Marais (DA) sought clarity on contracting, asking for an outline of the difference between contracting, in the context of import authorisation, and in the context of export authorisation, He would have thought that "contracting" meant that there was a transaction. The 2013 and 2014 import and export statistics showed a huge difference. Somewhere, there were contracts concluded, and he asked if these were contracts concluded by domestic industries. He asked for an explanation of the total contract in value, and then for subtracting the total value in imports and exports.
Mr S Esau (DA) raised his concern about the delay in presenting the 2013 Annual Report and sought clarity on the causes for this delay. He also asked about the contracting and sought clarity on what these contacts projected in value, taking into account that the performance under these contracts took several years. He remarked that there was a fluctuation between the companies registered and the companies re-registered and enquired as to the reasons for that. He asked if the Inspectorate had capacity to execute its duties effectively and sufficiently, so that no gaps or loopholes were created in the system. He finally asked for the reasons behind the refusal of certain applications.
Mr Radebe responded by explaining how the contracting system worked. A company first applied to be registered so that it could appear on the NCACC database. However, there was difference between appearing on the database and actually contracting, because a contract could be authorised subject to considerations of market conditions. Members should note that there were differences between expressing a wish to contract and actual action of contracting, and whether or not a company would succeed depended primarily on how aggressive that company might be. A company might be given a marketing contract to market its products, but a partnering company from overseas would not actually sign any contract, and that explained the difference between what the NCACC authorised and what came as income from that contract into South Africa. For example, the NCACC might authorise R20 million worth of exports from South Africa to United Kingdom (UK). A client in UK might like those products and decide to order more, bringing the transaction worth to R30 million or more.
Mr Radebe noted the question on the delay in reporting to Parliament, but reiterated that there was no delay on his part, because the 2013 Annual Report was submitted to Parliament on time. He had documentary proof stating that the NCACC had complied with all reporting requirements.
Mr Radebe said that he was satisfied that the Inspectorate was doing a good job but he was expecting it to improve its capacity. He said that there was a problem in that when companies violated arms control laws, the Inspectorate sometimes did not take contravention matters as seriously as it should, and merely issued warnings. In his view, the NCACC should have stronger capacity to give strong penalties.
Mr Radebe explained that the NCACC could not authorise export if a client was facing an international sanction. Authorisation could also not be made if there would be diversion of products, or where the products would go to an unstable country or region, where there was a good chance that the arms would be used to fuel or escalate conflict in the region, or foster deterioration of relations.
Mr Radebe noted that the NCAC Act was enforced by the Inspectorate through conducting inspections, and these were done by paying unannounced visits. These visits were also paid to state-owned companies. Non-compliant companies were denied authorisation.
Mr Esau sought clarity on whether the NCACC was facing any particular challenges. He asked how the NCACC dealt with issues of South African individuals who were joining Asian rebellions as mercenaries, under the banner of a peace-keeping force. He referred to a recent report in The Star newspaper and sought clarity on the investigation of procurement of arms by countries such as Kenya, Syria, and Sudan. These arms were procured by the new generation or management and he asked what had been the final verdict of the court on this matter.
Mr Marais remarked that the inference that could be drawn from contracting authorisation was that domestic companies could deliver. However, when looking at export authorisation, there was a huge difference. The difference could be drawn from the capacity of a company to manufacture a quality products and capacity to deliver. He asked if the NCACC did investigate whether domestic companies were competitive enough, or whether they were lagging behind?
Mr D Gamede (ANC) asked why the NCACC should focus on improving the arms trade on the African continent, considering the role South Africa was playing on the African continent as a whole and in the sub-region, and wondered why Africa should trade on its own for the purpose of advancing arms dealing.
Mr Radebe responded that he could not be aware of each and every case decision, but that he would consult with the Cabinet Committee and revert back to the Committee.
He clarified that the NCAC Act prohibited mercenary activities. If people acted in contravention of the Act, they should be held responsible. If there was any information related to those activities, enforcement agencies should be informed and they would act in accordance with that information. He noted that recently there had been a teenager who attempted to leave, but police and the State Security Agency had to apprehend him. It was very clear that where there was evidence or reliable information, action would be taken.
Mr Radebe noted that despite the global competition challenges faced by domestic companies, they were competitive. This argument was supported by the fact that UN, AU and US were using South African weapons in the peace-keeping missions.
Mr Radebe stated that the mandate of the NCACC was restricted to inspecting of companies and enforcing compliance with the NCAC legislation. In regard to the comment about the trade on the African continent, he pointed out that the South African conventional arms industries did not have competitors on the African continent, but its competitors came from overseas.
In regard to contract authorisation, Mr Radebe concurred that most contracts took years to come into operation and that some contracts were just for exhibitions.
Mr Marais sought clarity on whether the question of utilising old or sub-standard military equipment in peace-keeping missions should be put to Mr Radebe, or whether it was not the right forum to ask that question.
The Chairperson responded that it was not the right forum.
Adoption of Committee reports
Committee reports were tabled and adopted.
Adoption of Committee minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of the meeting on18 June 2015, with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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