Activities of National Conventional Arms Control Committee: briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

02 August 2005
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


2 August 2005

Chairperson: Prof K Asmal (ANC)

Documents handed out:
NCACC submission to Portfolio Committee
Committee report on oversight visits
Committee report on Medium Term Expenditure Framework
Committee report on Department of Defence Annual Report and Armscor Annual Report
Committee Third Quarter Programme

The Deputy-Chairperson of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee presented an overview of the NCACC Annual Report of 2003/4 including detail on the legal framework, composition of the membership, the procedure around permit applications, the Non-Proliferation Fund and general arms-control activities. The Chairperson added that the NCACC reached decisions on arms trade at a Ministerial level that enhanced its efficacy and authority. The NCACC was responsible for ensuring compliance with issued end-user certificates. Members asked various questions including the criteria used to determine suitable destinations for arms, the current status of the Department's Inspectorate, the number of cases of abuse of end-user certificates, the nature of amendments to the Foreign Military Assistance Act, whether the NCACC monitored all private military-related companies in South Africa and the scope of the Non-Proliferation Fund.

Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Presentation
The Minister, Ms B Sonjica, in her capacity as Deputy-Chairperson of the NCACC, provided a synopsis of the NCACC Annual Report of 2003/04.
The legal framework under which the NCACC operated was outlined and certain sections of the relevant Act of 2002 explained. The NCACC was tasked with implementing government policy on conventional arms control. Section 4 dealt with the functions of the entity and section 5 focused on the appointment of Members. Members of the NCACC were appointed by the President and membership comprised various sectors of the government. The Chairperson and the Deputy-Chairperson of the NCACC were intentionally appointed from other line functions to ensure objectivity. The Secretariat was established by section 8 and referred to as the Directorate-Conventional Arms Control. The NCACC considered the military relationship with Israel and the regulation of Foreign Military Assistance. The Foreign Military Assistance Act was being amended and would appear before the Committee in due course. A list of permit applications approved was provided and an update extended on compliance matters. The Non-Proliferation Fund was managed by the NCACC and no significant expenditure had been registered. The NCACC membership was adjusted after the 2004 elections. Adequate evidence had to be gathered in order to secure prosecution regarding violation of current relevant legislation. The activities of the NCACC during the period under review contributed to the strengthening of South Africa's arms control initiatives.

The Chairperson stated that the current arms control regime in South Africa was exemplary and based on best practice models. The decision regarding permit allocation was taken at a Ministerial level that ensured accountability and oversight control. The NCACC had to operate in accordance with strict criteria that facilitated compliance with government policy. Arms exports now were considerably lower than at previous stages. The NCACC took decisions independently of the Department of Defence and therefore contained an executive function. The Minister had to act in accordance with the recommendations of the NCACC. The NCACC had to investigate whether the stipulations of the end-user certificate had been observed and any violation would result in a cessation of current export arrangements.

Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) referred to current arms exports and sought clarity on the criteria used to determine suitable destinations for arms. For example, sales to Columbia could be questioned on certain grounds such as the levels of violence within the country and criminal activity. Human rights and security issues had to be considered when contemplating trade. He asked whether the Department of Defence Inspectorate had been established and was operational. Further detail on the Non-Proliferation Fund was required and the specific nature of the initial agreement should be elucidated. Findings of the recently completed audit should be made available to Members.

The Minister replied that an extensive verification process was in place to assess the appropriateness of certain proposed sales to specific countries and applications were carefully scrutinised by the Directorate and other related security agencies. The Department of Foreign Affairs was also involved in the decision-making process. The type of arms to be exported were considered in accordance with section 15 of the NCACC Act. The guidelines were carefully adhered to.

Ms V Daniell (Deputy-Director-Compliance) stated that an investigation in Columbia referred to items previously exported on a temporary loan basis and which had not been returned by due date. All firearms exported to Columbia could be traced and identified. Return documentation from Columbia had to be produced in order to facilitate the return of the weapons to South Africa. Temporary transfers would be restricted to a six-month time frame. The weapons in question had been tested to destruction within Columbia and would not be returned. The Non-Proliferation Fund was created to improve the South African arms control environment. The Fund was controlled by Foreign Affairs with the involvement of other stakeholders and a business plan was in place to improve arms control in general.

The Chairperson stated that the NCACC possessed a thorough verification process and the creation of a separate Inspectorate would generate unnecessary cost implications. Verification had been conducted in a satisfactory manner and the list of permits issued was impressive.

The Minister added that the Inspectorate was situated within the Secretariat of the Department of Defence.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) indicated that only one company had been sanctioned and asked whether any other companies were involved. Members should be provided with the regulations governing the work of the NCACC.

The Minister responded that only one company had been sanctioned up to the present and the regulations would be made available to Members in due course.

Ms Daniell replied that only three companies had been mentioned in reports. The legislation would be amended to allow the NCACC to impose fines on companies that violated stipulations of the Act. Presently only criminal prosecutions could be undertaken and the securing of reliable evidence was problematic. Further violations by companies would result in the cessation of permit allocations in an attempt to foster compliance on the part of companies involved. The activities of companies would be closely monitored and audits would be undertaken to ascertain compliance. The discovery of minor contraventions would be dealt with by fines in future.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked whether the NCACC knew of any abuses of the end user certificate by recipient countries. Further detail was required on the type of evidence needed to secure conviction regarding contraventions of end user stipulations. South Africa's relationship with Israel in terms of arms trade had to be discussed and further information provided.

Ms Daniell replied that the Act clearly stipulated the guidelines to be followed in the issuance of end user certificates and the responsibilities of the recipient countries. For example, countries involved should not resell specific items without South Africa's permission. Presently, no contraventions of certificate regulations were known to the NCACC. The Inspectorate was tasked with periodic investigation of arrangements in recipient countries to determine compliance.

Mr S Dladla (Acting-Director: Conventional Arms Control) stated that two applications for export permits had been rejected in 2003 on the grounds of avoiding potential escalation in instability within the countries concerned. Prosecution of non-compliant parties was difficult due to insufficient evidence.

The Minister added that amendments to the Foreign Military Assistance Act would be initiated to refine procedure in determining the nature of conflict within potential recipient countries. A trade relationship with Israel remained in terms of arms-related material but was continuously evaluated at cabinet level. A phasing out approach would be considered. Section 15 of the Act stipulated the conditions necessary to undertake sales of weapons and the types involved.
The Chairperson asserted that no arms had been sold to Israel since the beginning of the latest Intifada in 2000. The definition of foreign assistance was wide-ranging and could cause anomalies but the overriding principle was to avoid inflaming internal situations through arms supply. The FMAA remained a world leader in attempting to regulate mercenary and related activities.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) asked what aspects of the FMAA had to be amended and why no significant expenditure had been recorded by the NCACC.

The Minister replied that the current legislation did not specify how the determination of armed conflict within a region would be approached. The existence of conflict within a country was open to interpretation. Any organisation could be involved in humanitarian activity that proved difficult to monitor. Amendments to legislation would be encouraged that tightened up the type of bodies involved and clarified conflict situations.

Mr Dladla responded that a non-proliferation fund had been established utilising resources acquired from the United States to strengthen arms control activity. A business plan directed at enhancing arms control would be drawn up involving SADC countries in accordance with international best practice. Expenditure would increase where required to accommodate new initiatives.

Mr Sayedali-Shah sought clarity on how arms were exported to Columbia on a temporary basis and how such items could be returned. The process in determining the acceptability of recipient countries was problematic as human rights violations in certain countries seemed to be overlooked in particular cases. Columbia remained one valid example of a suspect destination.

The Minister responded that certain agreements were in place with certain countries but further detail could not be provided in the meeting due to confidentiality issues. Any requests for trade would be evaluated by the NCACC in terms of the legal stipulations.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee valued its oversight responsibility and any serious violation would be thoroughly investigated. The procedure in place involving the scrutiny committee was adequate and the NCACC was authorised and competent to reach sound and independent conclusions. Strict principles in determining appropriateness of requests were vigorously applied and relations were only entered into with democratic regimes. The issue of strategic partners was also an important determining factor. The defence needs of legitimate states had to be met. Each case was evaluated on its merits in accordance with the legislative framework.

The Minister referred Members to section 15 of the Act as the guiding framework and concurred that requests were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Transfers would not occur to places where human rights violations took place in a systematic way. The intention was not to contribute to regional conflicts that existed or seek to fuel instability. Extreme sensitivity would be maintained in this regard. Applications would also consider the types of arms or military-related equipment incorporated within a request. Arms would not be provided for offensive purposes.

Mr Sayedali-Shah asked why arms deals were in place with countries such as China and Nepal that clearly violated human rights given the stated legislative guidelines.

Mr Ntuli asked whether the NCACC maintained oversight over all private military-related companies in South Africa and what quantity of such entities existed. He asked what type of agreement was in place with other countries regarding the non-proliferation fund.

The Minister responded that the stipulations of the Act applied in determining activity of private companies and the type of material involved. The NCACC would receive a status report from the Department of Foreign Affairs pertaining to the fund in due course. Members would be issued with copies

The Chairperson added that private entities remained under the control of the NCACC and no illegal transactions had been reported since 1995. Regulation was an important component of government's function. Members should not assume overly critical positions about arms deals. Some trade activity involved military-related equipment such as electronics and communication material without any weapon-systems. The current regulatory framework had to be protected, enhanced and amended where necessary. The accumulation of meaningful evidence in attempted prosecution remained problematic but democratic principles had to be enforced. Individuals could not be arrested on mere suspicion of mercenary activity, for example. The arms trade would continue to be managed in a transparent manner within the rule of law.

The Minister concluded that the NCACC would continue to implement the stipulations of the legislation to the letter. Decisions taken would be governed by the foreign policy objectives to promote regional and international peace and stability.

The Committee considered various oversight reports compiled from recent trips to the De Aar ammunition depot, Tempe military base and the Bloemspruit Air Forensic base. The living conditions of soldiers in certain bases had to be improved and additional resources would be requested from Treasury. The composition of the Officer's Corps remained controversial and gender imbalances had to be addressed. Skills development programmes should be improved in the short term. A defence-related conference would be held in September 2005 involving Foreign Affairs, Safety and Security, Intelligence and Defence. Members discussed the Committee programme for the third quarter and a planned oversight trip to the DRC and Burundi. The latter trip would necessitate careful planning including travel, health and seasonal considerations.

Mr T Motumi (Deputy-Director-General: Department of Defence) responded that the recommendations of the Committee would be absorbed by the Department and acted upon where possible. The Annual Report was almost completed and would be presented to the Committee on 17 August 2005.

The meeting was adjourned.


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