ARMSCOR Progress Report; Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Bill [B42-2005]

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Defence and Military Veterans

14 August 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

15 August 2006

Ms T Tobias (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Bill [B42B—2005]
Armament Corporation of South Africa Quarterly Performance Report: April to June 2006: Part1 & Part2
ARMSCOR presentation: Part1 & Part2

Relevant documents:
SABC News August 11, 2006: ANC sabotaging parliamentary process: Leon
Weekly newsletter from Leader of the Opposition: 11 August 2006

The Committee discussed the Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Bill until the Chair concluded that no new issues were being introduced. The Committee then voted to adopt the Bill over the opposition of the Members from the Democratic Alliance and Freedom Front+.

The Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR) presented a Quarterly Performance Report for the Period 1 April 2006 to 30 June 2006. However, the Chair stopped them because they were not providing the information that the Committee had wanted. The presentation discussed the goals of ARMSCOR and the organisation’s financial status but did not discuss ARMSCOR’s progress on the issues raised at prior meetings.

Several members agreed that although the presentation was useful, it was not appropriate for this meeting. The Committee decided to add this presentation to the workshop that they would be conducting and in the meantime gave specific instructions to ARMSCOR regarding what they wanted in the report.

Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Bill

The Chair told the Committee that the Bill would be voted on that day as it had been scrutinised by all of the relevant stakeholders. She noted, however, that she was concerned about statements that were being made in the media about the Committee’s deliberations, adding that the Committee had been very tolerant of opposing views. She asked if any of the Members wished to voice their concerns directly to the Committee.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) expressed appreciation for the Chair’s leadership, which he described as “overly democratic.” He added that the Bill had been under consideration for a long time and that there had been opportunities for the public to express their opinions throughout.

Mr R Jankielsohn (DA) said that there is “a big difference between listening and hearing” and that despite the fact that the Committee had listened to many people their views were not considered. He added that, in his view, the Bill was “principally flawed” and that in certain places it was very sloppy. He pointed out that the title was grammatically incorrect. Despite his objection, Mr Jankielsohn added that he thought the Committee should proceed with voting on the Bill.

Mr M Booi (ANC) pointed out that the Committee had gone through extensive presentations. He said he was concerned over the misinformation that had been given to the leader of the Democratic Alliance and that the opposition Members should clearly articulate their opposition to the Bill in the Committee. He added that he was disappointed that the issues of concern had not been put on the table for discussion.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) said that he opposed the Bill and believed that Clause Four is unconstitutional.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) stated that his party had made their case repeatedly. He argued that although the Committee had gone through the “formalistic procedures of democracy”, it lacked the substance of democracy.

Mr Monareng said that the Bill addresses the concern that South African citizens will be criminalised even though they are not mercenaries. He pointed out that the Bill’s title reads “Regulation of Certain Activities in Country” because it had been “Regulation of Certain Activities in Areas” which was not specific enough. He added that the opposition had a right to express their frustration, but that unfortunately the Committee would be unable to satisfy everyone.

Mr Booi agreed with Mr Monareng, and added that the Committee had been very conciliatory in its approach. He said that the statement by the leader of the DA that his party opposed the role of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) but did not clearly explain why. He added that it is the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that the NCACC works properly.

Mr Jankielsohn explained that the DA was opposed to the NCACC because it was a political body whose decisions could strongly affect people’s lives. He added that legislation is only as good as the institution that implements it and that the NCACC had already held up the approval of requests made by the Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR).

The Chair said that the Committee was going over ground that had already been covered. She added that the Committee had been discussing these issues for nine months and that they should try to move forward.

Mr Jankielsohn said that they would have serious difficulties in the implementation of this Bill and that he was particularly concerned about the legislation’s extraterritorial reach. He foresaw serious problems with implementing the Bill in countries where extradition treaties do not exist.

The Chair brought up the issue of the portrayal of the Committee in the media and said that she was incorrectly represented as having not wanted the NCACC to come before the Committee. She added that some of the discussion the Committee was having was based on fear and not on facts.

Mr Groenwald pointed out that some of the organisations who had made submissions thought that the existing Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act could have been amended rather than creating a new Bill. He said that the current Bill was in part an over-reaction on the part of the ANC to “the Mark Thatcher issue”. He said that there was a perception that Mark Thatcher had gotten away “scot-free” when he had actually made a deal with the prosecuting authority. He added that all political parties agreed that mercenary activities should be prohibited, but he said that the Bill was not fair to people with military skills that were trying to pursue their careers outside of South Africa. His example was of a qualified person who could no longer serve in the South African Defence Force because of affirmative action.

Mr Groenwald said that the Committee had proof that the NCACC made political decisions, bringing up an arms deal that the NCACC had protected in the late 1990s. He suggested that the NCACC could still be susceptible to corruption.

The Chair said that up until this point the only new issue that had been raised was the differentiation between substantive and procedural democracy. She added that, after nine months of debate, if committee members did not think that there is substantive democracy then something is wrong. She said that she pitied Mr Jankielsohn because his lack of attendance had denied him substantive democracy.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) said that he understood the debate that was taking place but that he had expected the Committee to vote on the Bill. He said that he was not sure whether the discussion was new or whether the Committee Members were repeating previous points. He requested that the members of the Committee agree to disagree. He added that if the Committee was going to continue debate on the Bill it should do so openly.

The Chair agreed with Mr Ndlovu, adding that the Bill would receive further debate in the National Assembly. She said that she had begun the discussion now because of the comments that were being made outside of the Committee.

Mr J Phungula (ANC), whose comment was translated by the Chair, said that the Bill was important because if there is no control over the movement of soldiers, particularly those with special skills, then they may use their training against South Africans.

Voting on Bill
The Chair said that the Committee would proceed to vote on the Bill section by section.

Mr Greonewald said that the Freedom Front Plus would not support any clause in the Bill.

Mr Jankielsohn said that the Democratic Alliance also would not support the Bill.

The Chair read the Bill and the Members from the African National Congress voted in favour of all clauses with amendments.

Armament Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR): progress report
Mr H Thomo (Chief Executive Officer of ARMSCOR) introduced ARMSCOR’s Quarterly Performance Report for the period from April 1st to June 30th, 2006. The report was an explanation of ARMSCOR’s business plan and strategic objectives.

Mr Thomo explained that ARMSCOR’s objective is to obtain equipment for South Africa’s military. He highlighted the need for ARMSCOR to maintain and develop its capacity so that it could continue to improve its acquisition capability.

The Chair of the Committee paused Mr Thomo’s presentation to comment that she had wanted to see information about the progress that ARMSCOR has made on issues that had been highlighted previously by the Committee. She was disappointed that the presentation was a business plan rather than a progress report.

Mr Thomo replied that ARMSCOR had found it difficult to find out what was expected for the presentation but he certainly did not want to waste any of the Committee’s time.

Ms M Bloem (Senior Management Committee of ARMSCOR) added that in preparing their presentation they had followed instructions given to them by the Department of Defence.

Adv Schmidt said that the quarterly report is a relatively new concept and that it was clear that ARMSCOR had attempted to comply with the standards they were given. However, he added that he would like to see the presenters draw a clearer connection between the financial data that ARMSCOR had provided and the goals they had been asked to evaluate.

Mr Booi said that the Committee had found ARMSCOR to be performing poorly and that the purpose of this presentation should have been to asses whether or not there had been improvement.

Mr Thomo agreed that quarterly reports were a new practice but said that they had tried to highlight some of the progress of ARMSCOR in their presentation. He noted that there had been a communication problem between ARSMCOR and the Committee, adding that they wanted to provide the Committee with the right information.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) said that the presentation that had been prepared contained useful information but was not the information that was appropriate for the current meeting. He added that it would be helpful to revisit the format of quarterly reports.

Mr Ndlovu said that the Committee should make clear to ARMSCOR exactly what they want.

The Chair said that the appropriate place for the information that ARMSCOR was providing would be in their annual report. She added that, although quarterly reports were a new concept, the standards were clear and her office could not teach every government agency how to write their reports. She suggested that the Committee extend their upcoming workshop to get more information from ARMSCOR.

Ms Bloem explained exactly how ARMSCOR received their guidelines for quarterly reports. They had talked to the Department of Defence and the Parliamentary Information Office but not directly to the Committee.

The Chair said that, although she might not have been clear in her expectations, she would have preferred to be contacted directly by ARMSCOR. She added, however, that the advantage of moving the presentation to the workshop was that all of the other relevant agencies would be present to respond to issues of communication.

Adv Schmidt suggested that the Committee provide ARMSCOR with a written request for what they want from the next presentation so that they could be held to account.

Mr Thomo acknowledged the comments of the Committee members and apologised for any misunderstanding and for wasting the Committee’s time.

The meeting was adjourned.




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