On a virtual meeting platform, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence received a report from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) on its second and third quarter performance for 2021/22.
The Committee was told that impediments to exports were creating a backlog of R3.5 billion in orders, especially from the Gulf states, and this was receiving the attention of senior government authorities. Members questioned where the bottlenecks were that were delaying the processing of end-user certificates. They acknowledged that while the Committee could not prescribe the necessary actions to be taken, it believed support should be given to the defence industry to ensure its sustainability.
The growth and strength of the South African defence industry was dependent on it receiving and satisfying orders that would play a critical role in growing the economy and creating much-needed job opportunities. Despite this, the Committee had emphasised the need to achieve a balance between adhering to international obligations, addressing proliferation concerns, preserving jobs within the arms industry, and ensuring compliance with legislation, which remained one of the Committee's huge preoccupations. The Committee welcomed the assurance that South Africa, through the NCACC, continued to follow strict international guidelines on the arms trade.
The Committee welcomed the information that the NCACC was almost fully constituted, with all its scheduled meetings having been honoured. However, it called for the appointment of a representative from the State Security Agency to fully constitute the Committee, which would enable it to discharge its mandate. It also urged that there should be better collaboration between stakeholders throughout the approval process value chain, to ensure that impediments and backlogs were cleared.
The migration of the application and approval processes, from manual to electronic, was emphasised as a remedy to ensure that there were no blockages. To this end, the Committee called for the completion of the information technology (IT) project to ensure agility within the process and enable adherence to contract deadlines.
Members raised the controversial issue of allegations of South African armaments being used in the conflict in Yemen. The NCACC said it would be extremely difficult to verify this, because the shrapnel could be old stock that had been exported at a time when the circumstances in the recipient country had been completely different.
The Committee welcomed the achievement of a clean bill of financial health for the Secretariat of the NCACC for the eighth year in a row, which was evidence of good governance.
The Committee approved its programme for the first three months of 2022, stressing that it was essential for the Department of Defence to be available and prepared for the scheduled meetings, as there had been late cancellations recently which had been an embarrassment to both the Committee and the Department itself.
The Chairperson welcomed Members, and apologies were received from the Minister in the Presidency, Mr Mondli Gungubele, who was giving a post-Cabinet media briefing, and two other Members. He welcomed the Minister of Defence, Ms Thandi Modise, and thanked her for attending the meeting.
He asked Adv Ezra Jele, representative of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) secretariat, to share the apologies on his side.
Adv Jele updated the Committee on the changes in the NCACC, as Minister Gungubele was now the chairperson since 15 November, and Minister Ronald Lamola reverted to being the deputy chairperson. He added that the Minister of Defence was also a member of the committee.
Committee's draft programme for 2022
The Chairperson said the first item in the new term would be the briefing by the Minister on the forensic report on 1 Military Hospital and related matters. The related matters refer to the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) that the Minister appointed in 2014 to enquire into the three military hospitals. The report was not available yet, but it dealt with the status of the three military hospitals and was related to the issue of 1 Military Hospital. The issue was on the agenda for the last meeting and had to be deferred to a later date, and the only available slot was 17 February. All that was required was to confirm the availability of the Minister and Secretary for Defence on that date. It had been moved because both the Minister and the Secretary for Defence were away on a mission with the President, and the Acting Secretary of Defence said she had not seen the report, so she could not comment on its status.
Minister Patricia de Lille, of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) was also invited to talk to the report and consequence management, on the borderline headquarters building of the military, the patrol route, and the borderline fence. She was able to touch on all of these three issues, and the Committee then dealt with the issues as presented by her and her office. This part was deferred to a later date, which was now 17 February. The Chairperson said if the Committee succeeded in adopting the first term programme at that meeting, then it would remove that item and replace it with another one if there was a need to do so.
The third item would be the review of the Annual Performance Plan (APP), and the Members were reminded of the Committee's five-year strategic plan. Each year the Committee had to have a business plan. The Members would be reviewing the APP adopted last year and would adopt a new one for this year. As this was the last meeting of the year, the Committee hoped that the Minister would be present as agreed. They did not mind dealing with the quarterly reports in the absence of the Minister and the NCACC Chairperson if it was just the first quarter, second quarter or third quarter. However, if it was the fourth quarter or last quarter, the Committee preferred that the annual report be presented in the presence of the Minister to enable it to engage on all the issues picked up during the year.
The Chairperson said the second item on 24 February, which would be a follow-up meeting with the National Defence Industry Council on the implementation of the Defence Sector Charter, was critical because the industry was very important to the country's economy and the sustenance of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The protection of sovereign technology intellectual property that would be discussed on 3 March was also a critical issue. The Minister of Public Enterprises had instituted some enquiries into the issue, and she felt that the country could not compromise on its intellectual property that had been built up over so many that years and earned SA respect.
For the 10 March meeting, the Chairperson reminded the Committee that on the last visit of the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) and the Minister of Defence, Members had requested that he write a letter of enquiry to the Ministry on allegations that the soldiers deployed in Mozambique had been fed expired food. The Committee had expressed its outrage at that, and checked if the military Ombudsman was capable of looking into it. The Ombudsman had said it would, but only if the Minister referred the matter to them or if there was a formal complaint from the affected soldiers themselves. Even though there was no formal letter from the soldiers, it was the responsibility of the Committee not to ignore the matter, because they were out there with the mandate of Parliament and a Parliament-approved budget. As public representatives, the Committee should be in a position to answer questions from their relatives regarding their wellbeing in foreign missions. It was in that context that the Committee had taken an interest in the matter, and it needed the Ombudsman to verify the facts. If there was any wrongdoing by the senior managers, then action should be taken against those individuals.
The Chairperson commented on the cyber warfare strategy on which the Committee would be briefed on 17 March, reminding Members how SA was exposed on this front. The development of the cyber warfare strategy was dependent on the cyber policy of the government, which the country did not have. The Committee was not aware of the current status of the government cyber policy framework, so it would be getting an update from the Ministry of Defence. The country had been attacked several times, so this would be to check the country's readiness for cyber warfare.
On the briefing by the DOD and Armscor, the Chairperson reminded Members that it was because of their request to Treasury that money had been ring-fenced for the escalation of technology as a force multiplier, to assist the soldiers deployed along the borderline to fight borderline crimes. Around R200 million had been set aside to be released over a three-year medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) period, starting with R60 million, now at R75 million, and the balance would be in the outer year.
Mr S Marais (DA) said it was a very good programme that entailed all the matters the Committee had identified. Why was the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) recruitment there? The exit mechanism was correct, because it was a pertinent part of the Portfolio Committee (PC). There were two meetings scheduled for 3 March, so he assumed that one of them would be moved by a week. That would imply that 17 March meeting would be fitted into the programme or into the second quarter, especially if the Committee went on an oversight visit that week. The visit to 1 Military Hospital was very important, but closer to that time if there were no changes, and there would be a meeting with the Minister before that. The Committee could consider a visit to 1 Military Hospital in its oversight.
Chairperson said the Committee had proposed visiting 1 Military Hospital before, but for now the Members would have to see where to fit it in. On the availability of the Minister and the Secretary of Defence, the date had to be left open until they confirmed their availability.
Minister Modise indicated that she had been given an oral briefing, but had not seen the report yet. She was sure that she would get the report and the entity would be ready in February to come back. The item should be retained on the agenda for 17 February, because it gave her ample time to go through the report and be able to respond to the Committee.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) appealed to the Minister and the Ministry to align its programme with the one the Committee was adopting, to avoid a situation where it cames to the Committee not being ready. Could they work on the programme timeously? This should not just apply to the programme at hand, but to all items in the other programmes of the Committee.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mmuntle, and said that the team at the Department would make contact two days ahead of a meeting, asking for a matter to be deferred, even though they had known weeks earlier that the matter was going to come up, and never informed the Committee on time. It was understandable if there were emergencies, but commitments were planned events, and planned events were not emergencies. The Committee should therefore be informed in time to reschedule its items to avoid the situation Mr Mmuntle was talking about. He told the Minister that this was in the context of the last meetings, where the Committee had been taken aback because the team would come and say it did not have a presentation, and the report would still have to be taken through the internal structures. This was about a report that would have been commissioned the previous year and received in December of that year. The Committee did not think that that the team was willing to cooperate with it at all.
Mr M Shelembe (DA) agreed with the other Members that the Minister must try her best to ensure that whatever programme her Department arranged must not contradict the programmes of the Committee. The reason there were Committee meetings was to ensure that it worked together with the Department to enhance the service delivery that was expected from the Department of Defence (DOD). It was very embarrassing for the Committee to spend time dealing with officials from different departments who made their time available to come to a meeting, only to discover that the Ministry was not available. This not only embarrassed the Committee, but the Department itself, especially on the Ministry's side. The Minister, as head of the Department responsible for ensuring its proper functioning, must lead by example to ensure that the meetings of the Committee were respected. The presence of the Minister in the Committee meetings enabled it to enhance the Department in its service delivery.
Minister Modise replied that she had no intention of dodging her responsibility, and she was happy that today she would get the programme which she could use to prepare for the meetings herself. She reminded the Members, not as an excuse, that she had recently moved to the DOD, and that the people in the private office were usually responsible for the coordination between the Minister, Parliament and the head of the Department. She also reminded the Committee that there was an instance not so long ago where the entity was late in responding to questions. She had been the former Chairperson of both the Portfolio Committee and the Joint Standing Committee, where she did not excuse the Ministers, so she did not expect the Committee to excuse her.
She had arrived at the DOD where programmes were already set, and she had to step into them. This meant that most of the briefings and the exchange of documents that she should be having access to had either been delayed or had not taken place. She was happy that she would have next year's programme, which would help her to diarise on her own and prepare for those documents. She agreed that it was embarrassing for a Minister of any department to appear to be unprepared and uninformed in front of the Committee, saying "I do not know," or shifting the blame to the administration. She apologised for what had just happened, and indicated that she had already spoken to the people in the Ministry. She had not written to the Chairperson asking him to defer those topics. If there was an issue, she would have appeared before the Committee to explain the challenges preventing the entity from presenting the item. She would never say stop or do not present it, because it was not the responsibility of the Minister or the Department to tell the Committee how to run its Parliamentary work. She apologised profusely for that.
She said she had gone through some of the reports and some were incomprehensive, and she believed that Minister De Lille would be able to respond on her part because she had been part of the programme from the word go and was aware of what was going on. Once she had gone through all the reports, she would be able to take responsibility for whatever happened in her presence as the Minister, and before that. For her to be able to respond to what had happened before taking over the Department, she would need to be fully briefed so that the Committee would not accuse her of misleading it. She did not think that the officials were lying when some of them said they had not seen this report. Certain people in the Defence Ministry and the DPWI had been fingered in the report, and because she had not seen it, she would not be able to respond. The hard copy was there, but had not been circulated, and she was hoping that it would be circulated.
She apologised on behalf of the Secretary for Defence, who could not attend due to health reasons. As soon as she was better, they would both go through the reports to enable her to respond to the Committee. She would not come to the Committee and say this was what she had been told, but had not verified it, because it would not look good. She apologised for what had happened, and indicated that she was gathering information and asking questions to get to the bottom of the matter, so she could prepare better for the Committee.
The Chairperson said the reason for producing the programme ahead of the term was to enable officials to prepare adequately. It was a standing practice that it was done. He was happy that the Minister had said she would take the programme and diarise it so that she could personally plan accordingly.
National Conventional Arms Control Committee: Q2 and Q3 performance
The Minister said the current Chairperson and herself were had been briefed and had heard about the report that the Adv Jele was presenting on the entity’s behalf. She would be ready if he needed any assistance in responding to questions.
Adv Jele listed the following key issues:
- The current members of the Committee were Minister Gungubele, who had been the Chairperson since 15 November, and Minister Ronald Lamola, who had reverted to being the Deputy Chairperson. The appointment of the two Ministers had come in handy, in that the Committee was now almost fully-fledged. There was still a need to appoint a representative from the State Security Agency (SSA) to complete the full complement of the appointees to this Committee.
- The NCACC framework was grounded in domestic law, which was in harmony with international treaties and conventions.
- The Cabinet Committee applied itself effectively within the confines of prescribed Laws.
- The current Conventional Arms Control framework, under the auspices of the NCACC was regulated through the NCAC Act, as amended. The amendment was made in 2012 to contend with the new realities of the defence industry complex. The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance (RFMA) Act was promulgated to regulate and curb mercenary activities and tendencies, owing to persons who did not subscribe to South Africa's democratic values. This Act had been amended in 2006, and had been assented to by the President currently under certification to be published in the Government Gazette to operationalise it.
- The process of the NCACC was a cycle that was repeated monthly. The NCACC met every last Thursday of the month, and the Scrutiny Committee met every second Thursday of the month. There were normally no meetings in January and in December.
- The guiding principles and criteria of Section15 were:
-UN Security Council resolutions (Arms Embargo);
-Governance – politics and human rights;
-Regional dynamics – stability;
-Risk of diversion – proliferation (non-state actors);
-National interest – security, political and economic.
- The NCACC primarily relied on Section 15 of the Act. It applied the above criteria of the Section in the Act for all its decisions that authorise the transfer of controlled items. Each application must enjoy this consideration to arrive at approval or denial of each transaction. Given the global temperature in the world as regards conflict -- for example, Syria and the forays of ISIS -- careful consideration had to be given when authorising these transfers for export.
- Mr Jele told the Committee that in Q1 there were 133 permits issued, 137 in Q2, and 165 in Q3. However, the export values had been R600 million in Q1, compared to just under R1 billion in Q3, even though more permits were issued in the third quarter. There was no indication of a constant movement for now.
- The audit of the Secretariat had been concluded, and the Auditor General (AG) had given the Directorate a clean bill of health, which was the eighth such outcome under the current leadership.
- The defence industry in South Africa was growing, as evidenced by the figures presented.
(See attached documents for details)
Mr Marais asked for an indication of the timelines. How long did the process referred to in that schedule of the application and the final approval take? He asked about the involvement of the police, because somewhere along the line, either during the process or before, the police were also involved in the inspection and issuing of certificates before the entity could proceed to issue the export certificates. He was asking this because there was a situation where sometimes it took very long, and he had taken it up to the Secretariat in the past, but everybody just pointed a finger at the NCACC. He got the impression that the involvement of the police in considering the applications and the issuing of certificates for the process to proceed, could be where the problem lay.
If there were exporters with export contracts of R8 billion for a year, and they came and asked for three permits for three shipments, and the next month they came with a fourth one for the same product and the same client, and under the same permit, what was the process for the second or repeated application? Currently, it seemed like it took a long time. He wanted to identify where the problem lay. Was it with the police? If it was, then the Committee had to interact with them as well, because eventually, the Committee had to assist the defence industry of SA. They had to export because the country needed the money, production and jobs, so if there was a bottleneck it needed to be addressed and currently, it seemed that there was a bottleneck.
He also asked about the Gulf States, and whether the problems indicated still fell under categories A and B, ammunition and equipment. According to the information from the defence industry, as of January, SA companies wanting to export to the Gulf States may be on a blacklist because they could not execute current and old export contracts and agreements. It came down to the Cabinet that takes a decision, and it had happened last time, and it seemed like the Cabinet had not taken a decision. Hopefully, Minister Modise would take the matter to the Cabinet. There seemed to be several companies that were on the blacklist of the Gulf States, and if they could not deliver, the contracts would be cancelled and moved to other countries. South Africa was so dependent on them, but it seemed like the bottlenecks were not being resolved. How could they move forward if the NCACC could not take it to the Cabinet via the Committee? This was not helping the Committee or the defence industry to earn foreign currency.
As mentioned before, the issue of the end-user certificate was very difficult, and the doubt was pointing to the conditions in the certificate. Why was SA not called on in the end-user certificate, to arrange for an inspection? It was now nearly a year since the problem started, and it had not been resolved. It was nearly a year that in some cases, the shipments of current export contracts would be on their way to the harbour, and the trucks have to turn around and return to the sites. The stock was still there, and not exported. How could one intervene to try and resolve that as soon as possible? Those were critical issues for the Committee. In the report that had just been presented, covering the second and third quarter, without referring to specific contracts, he had tried to identify the contracts and shipments that he knew had happened, but the country was not reflected in the lists of both quarters. How could one confirm if the figures were correct, because they both knew that those shipments hadoccurred in July and August, but were not reflected in the second and third quarter?
The Co-Chairperson agreed with Mr Marais that the Committee needed to make interventions, but what kind of interventions could be made by the Committee to clear the blockages in the system such as the police dragging their feet and not clearing issues on time? Some of the shipments had been returned to the factories because there was no use in them staying at the harbour for days or even months. He suggested a joint meeting of the security cluster, including the Committee itself and the Justice Department, because it had a role to play in this matter, and the Minister, as she was in the NCACC. This team should be called to a joint meeting so that during the engagement, solutions to some of the challenges may come up.
These companies had been in this business for some time and their contracts had been there before, so it was like building on what they already had. How many of these exporting companies were owned by the previously disadvantaged population group? How many of the previously disadvantaged people were entering the armament industry, because it was a restricted territory and no black people had been allowed to export? How many of them were involved and how successful were their businesses? How did the delay in clearing things affect their businesses? Would they be able to survive, given the difference in production, delivery, and meeting contractual obligations? What could the Department and the NCACC do as an intervention? What services could be given to these emerging companies to help themselves?
The Chairperson said the last time the Committee had spoken about the automation of the application and approval processes, it had transpired that the entity was still on a manual operation, and that was part of the reason why there was a delay in the application and approval processes. Armscor had offered to step in and assist, and at the last meeting, the entity had said it was doing it. He was not sure if the presentation had touched on that. There was a slide that was talking along those lines -- maybe he might have missed something. It was critical to ensure that there were no blockages in the pipeline, because delays cost money.
During the July unrest, ammunition for some reason had ended up in the wrong hands. The allegation was that it had gone missing. What was the NCACC's role, because it was on SA's shores that it had gone missing? Surely, there must be some investigation to establish whether the importer had a permit to do so, and that there was a record of where that ammunition was destined to. This information should be in the entity's hands so that when the police were investigating, it could assist them with this valuable information.
Adv Jele said he was not going to simplify a complicated and important matter, but it was important that when there were complaints or enquiries that the Committee was aware of some jurisdictional matters. The Directorate: Conventional Arms Control, dealt with a certain calibre of weapons and was regulated under the NCACC. Small arms and live weapons were actually under the Firearms Control (FAC) Act. Alongside the entity was a Non-proliferation Secretariat, and the entity had shared slides in the past which had indicated weapons of mass destruction. Very often, when the Committee Members have not cited those differences, the likelihood was that the Secretariat of the NCACC then became the face of the problem. It was important to point out that the Firearms Control Act was subject to the NCACC Act regarding the quantities per type when there were these applications, because if a particular type fell under the FAC Act, that was where the applicant would have their first port of call when they applied. However, given the threshold to approval by their own Scrutiny Committee, if the amount per type was more than 10 units, it was no longer an approval at the police, but a recommendation to the NCACC. If it was ammunition with a threshold of 19 999 units, it gets approved at the FAC level. When it became 20 000, it became the FAC’s recommendation to the NCACC. Those figures also played a very important role in evaluating where the problem lay. Therefore, the Secretariat of the NCACC could help only when they were aware of it. Those distinctions were very key to enable the members to decide the right person to speak to. The issue of coordination between the entity and other regulators was also key to ensuring that members of the industry were served as effectively as possible to be able to remain profitable, sustainable and grow their business.
On the timeline of the process, he said it would take as long as the applications were sitting at the FAC level, which was not different from the NCACC, because they also sat once a month. They sat in such a way that if it was a matter that required the NCACC's involvement, it would then, before an NCACC meeting, refer that which could not be approved at that level to the Secretariat of the NCACC, to place it on record for a recommendation for it to be approved by the NCACC. If they had not sat as the FAC, the NCACC could not force them to sit. It must be aware and see how best it could help, but the entity had its own people from the Secretariat of the NCACC who sit on the Scrutiny Committee to help resolve any challenges that they may experience. However, jurisdictionally, if this was below the figures he had mentioned earlier, it got approved at the FAC and was recommended to the NCACC if it was beyond the specified threshold prescribed in law in the FAC Act.
He referred to the issue of permits that were required by the same producer or supplier, and also to the same client, meaning the same country where there had been approval before. An aspect of the approval of exports was that the application no longer went to the NCACC. It resided with the Head of the Secretariat, but until the NCACC had approved the contracting permit and the Secretariat had informed the applicant, the applicant may not jump the gun and start a process to export. Only then could the applicant begin the processes that could enable him to export. The industry players may not agree or even confess to this, but at times they have jumped the gun and flouted documents that were about exports, when a contracting permit had not been approved by the NCACC. There was a check that had to be made to see if the individual had a permit at his disposal when making complaints.
It was important to consider that the material conditions that the NCACC considered at the time of the approval of contracting were also key in the consideration of an export. This was because if there was a degradation of those conditions, the committee must be made aware. For example, what if the committee approved today, and three days later the country in question experienced a coup? The Secretariat must ensure there was a considered approach so that the Head of the Secretariat was at liberty to issue the export permit. In terms of the Constitution, the country's values and the Act itself, South Africa may not export to a country without a government, or where there were human rights violations, or where it was clear that the material that was being exported was going to cause destabilisation n that region.
In response to the question on whether it was the A and B categories that were still creating a problem, he confirmed that this was the case. The reason for that was that categories A and B were very sensitive items, and it was those that were essentially cited both by the panel of the UN experts and Amnesty International as having been used in human rights abuses in Yemen. It was not unquestionable that the Committee would note that, and be concerned about it. It did not say that the Committee was not aware that the applicant had gone into production, and had stock that was gathering dust. The truth of the matter was that when the Committee was aware that some conditions were changing and were drastic, and could impact negatively on the transfers, a reconsideration of this had to be heard. It was expected to be seen to be done according to the NCACC Act. Failure to do so would mean that someone in the Cabinet Committee would have to come and explain why these control items had been authorised when there was a full realisation and knowledge that the conditions had deteriorated.
The risk that was contained in Section 15 played a key role here, saying that the State Security Agency, Defence intelligence and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) were indicating that the risk was high for diversion. It was therefore incumbent on the Committee to then say the risk was high, if there had been no mitigation. The Committee must be aware that when there were exports that had taken place physically, it meant the products were in different hands, and title and ownership changed as well, because they had been paid for. However, the expectation was that the recipient would honour the end-user certificate and undertakings that were given -- that it shall be used or consumed at the destination country and not given to third parties. The Committee could not begin to doubt the reports that had been given by organs of the state that were tasked through a disparate mandate, to evaluate and warn the Committee of impending danger of ongoing deterioration in the conditions.
In responding to the question from the Co-Chairperson on how the Committee could intervene, he said if the Members were satisfied with that, it was important that they indicate to the NCACC that there were those challenges. The case in point was that every time those questions were raised directly to him, he sought guidance from the JSC, where such questions were essential and where the Members knew the inner workings. He responded to the enquiries raised, but in a limited sense, because by law aspects related to this must be discussed with the applicant and not the third parties. He used the term third parties due to the lack of a better word. Once he started divulging matters between the Secretariat and the applicant, he was divulging information that remained between the applicant and the Secretariat. He had sometimes responded to these questions, but he would like to seek guidance from the Committee to ensure that he was on solid ground as far as the protocols were concerned.
He said he would leave the issue of the involvement of the security cluster with the Committee and the Ministry. The NCACC committee members were a Cabinet committee suis generis, which meant it had a higher and good standing, and its operations were essentially at its discretion. Guidance may be obtained elsewhere. but it was still the committee under the Act that had to take the decision and act, given the mandate it enjoys under the Act. If sometimes matters were referred to Cabinet, it was for guidance, but the matter eventually landed back at the NCACC where, based on an interface with the Cabinet and the advice given, it then proceeds in a certain manner as supported by its mandate in the Act.
He would leave the composition of the ownership of the companies that were registered under the Act to the industry association to respond to, because it did not normally keep these statistics, but maybe it should start to do so. However, it was currently on about an 80:20 basis, and transformation was negligible if one looked at how long after the current democratic dispensation there were these figures. The charter had been adopted to try to ameliorate that. He was not aware of how far that had progressed -- maybe the industry association could give an update on that.
Mr Jele responded to the Chairperson's question on automation, and said that both the old and the new systems were live now. The proof of the pudding would be in the eating. At the beginning of the year it would begin to load applications that ought to operate on an automated basis, and it could then provide a proper perspective on how far or how better it was, now that the new system was giving the advantage of most things that were done digitally.
The role of the NCACC Secretariat on the issue of ammunition that had gone missing during the July unrest, was to establish whether it was the permits that were issued by the NCACC or its other regulators. He confirmed that this was ammunition that fell under a calibre that was issued by the police, and was currently a police matter. How it went missing should be reported properly by another organ of the state. The NCACC offered assistance on how to go about that, but it was not the ammunition or permits that were issued by the entity. The disappearance of the ammunition was a criminal matter, which was why it had to reside under the police to conclude.
Follow up questions
Mr Marais thanked the Adv Jele for responding to the questions, which had helped give a better understanding of where the problems in the bottlenecks may lie. He reminded him of two matters he raised that had not been addressed -- the blacklisting of SA companies in January in the Gulf states, specifically in the UAE, and what could be done about that, and whether the entity would be able to meet with the industry players in that regard. What was the process of dealing with that challenge? The other one was about the end-user certificate conditions and stipulations, and where there was doubt what the end-user country or the importer was using the ammunition for -- had that been initiated? Why was there a reluctance to follow the rules of the end-user certificate inspections, if there was about a year involved and a high degree of doubt about the intentions of those countries?
Adv Jele said the Minister could confirm that there had been a Cabinet meeting yesterday that had discussed that matter, and the countries in question. The NCACC would still be constituted to deal with the outcome of the Cabinet meeting yesterday. As explained earlier, the Cabinet would give guidance, but the decision still lay with the NCACC. He hoped that before the end of the year, the NCACC would sit to consider yesterday's outcome. It was very important, as it would help bring certainty to the process. He would engage with the Chairperson, who had been busy, to help with the convening of the NCACC so it could sit and consider the outcome of the Cabinet meeting. He hoped that it happened before the end of the year, not just to deal with the blacklisting, but to also deal with the pent-up energy that was there for the applications that had been kept in abeyance because of the material degradation that was happening in the countries of receipt.
It was not due to a reluctance of the members that the NCACC did not want to go and do an inspection in those countries. The energy should be directed correctly at how best to achieve this. Essentially the reports that were received were saying that some of the material that came from South African entities had been found and used in Yemen. There was shrapnel that they claimed to have been used that was found in Yemen. It was a huge task to engage them, because if one went and did an onsight inspection of things that SA had exported in the last three or so years, one was likely to find them in the stores. However, the things that were exported earlier were unlikely to be in the stores because they had been consumed. Normally it was the old ammunition that was used when there were missions in order to ensure that one could still get maximum usage out of its shelf life. One needed to carefully consider what should be done to ensure aspects in the end-user inspection.
Minister Modise said Adv Jele had covered all the Committee had asked. She understood the concerns of the Members about the inability to sell as many weapons as possible, because the economy needed to be boosted. The truth of the matter was that SA had a very strong human rights culture that was entrenched in the Constitution. The second factor was that when the Arms Control Act was enacted, the insertion to ensure that weapons from this country would never be used in civil wars or uprisings within countries had deliberately been put there. This created a dilemma as a country, because it wanted an economic boost, but there was also the moral obligation about human rights. On what Members could do, she said the Cabinet had to deal with this matter, because it was an Executive function, Once Members of this Committee started trying to see what they could do to help market, or other assistance, it caused another dilemma where there was a weakening of the oversight role, which moved over into the Executive role. It might be correct for Parliament to keep its stance of reminding too much, but not to try to be involved in the direct promotion or sale of the weapons. This would affect the separation of powers. Everyone wanted money flowing into the country and injecting into the economy, but Members must be careful of instances where fixing something ends up destroying something else.
She said there were two conditions why committee discussions could be kept closed. One had to do with exactly the matter it was handling when going to deal with the tenders and contracts, so that it did not prejudice matters. The second was when someone's life may be affected by whatever was being discussed. Maybe the Members needed to go back and relook at those conditions -- whether those two conditions were being used, and where they could apply them. The Committee must let the Speaker agree that the meetings should be closed, because that gives that Committee more freedom.
The Minister said the UN register was open, and whatever SA sold could be found in that register. It could show what the country had sold. It might be that what had been found in Yemen were things that had been sold in the past, and maybe what should be looked at was whether the country was bound by an order that was made, with every step of it correct until years later, and what was in stock had been used in an area that was not anticipated at the time of the sales. Maybe at some point the entity should look at how insurance could be taken out on that, but she doubted if it would succeed.
Chairperson thanked the Minister and her delegation and released them.
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes.
He thanked the Members for their commitment this year.
The meeting was adjourned.
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