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Monday, February 1, 2010

Arms Control Chaos

BY JAN-JAN JOUBERT

A DAMNING confidential report by the Auditor-General paints a shocking picture of the country’s arms control systems.

It reveals that cabinet ministers who had to monitor South African conventional arms sales to foreign countries did not do their jobs and no official records exist of where some of the deadly weapons ended up. As a result some of the weapons might have ended up in the hands of violent dictators and may have been used to quell civil unrest or landed up in war-torn countries.

According to the report, South Africa sells weapons to, among others, Sudan, Gabon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt and Central African Republic. Not all of these are engaged in war, rebellion or oppression but arms can easily transit through to war-torn areas.

Missing Permits

What should worry South African authorities is that several of the required permits for the arms sales as well as the verification of the end user to prevent sales to criminals or rogue states are missing.

The report shows that the system of arms sales controls has effectively collapsed. The arms include weapons, ammunitions, explosives, bombs, armaments, vehicles and aircraft but exclude weapons of mass destruction.

Ignoring the Law...

The National Arms Control Committee (NCACC), which consists of several cabinet ministers, is required by law to agree to each transaction and then issue the required permit. This was not done.

The committee was chaired by former cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi for the greater period under review and is now chaired by Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe. Radebe says he has sent a response to Parliament. But the replies to the Auditor-General’s queries by the director of the arms control committee’s directorate, Dumisane Dladla, promises no improvement.

In almost all cases the same concerns were raised in the previous year. In the confidential report Dladla cut and pasted the same ­explanation word for word from the last one. He did not say what remedial steps would be taken to stave off chaos in arms sales.

The report finds that ministers in charge of arms sales control did “not understand and exercise their oversight responsibility related to the issuing of permits and related controls. Permits are issued without proper authorisation, delegation or ratification of the NCACC”.

The audit implores the arms control committee to comply with the relevant legislation and operating procedures. Some of the findings include:

The register of permits for the international sale of conventional weapons is not up to date and some permits cannot not be traced.
At least 58 arms transactions with clients in at least 26 countries took place without the legally ­required input by relevant government departments.
For at least 17 transactions there are no delivery verification certificates, meaning arms could have been sold to rogue states.
In some cases the certificate indicating the end-user is missing.

The audit, which covers the year ending March 2008, lists the transaction, the permit holder and the “end country” to which the arms go but not the extent and nature of the arms.

This information is required by law to be included in the quarterly and yearly reports of the arms control committee. The law requires quarterly arms sales control reports to be made to Parliament and yearly reports to the general public. This has not happened since 2006.

“It is solid evidence of administrative meltdown in the NCACC,” says Democratic Alliance MP ­David Maynier.

“Politicians unlawfully left decisions to be made by officials.

“These decisions are about arms with which people are killed and about laws which are supposed to keep these deadly weapons out of the hands of rogues and rogue states.”

“To fix the situation, the NCACC needs to meet regularly, do its work and report on it fully as required by law,” he added.

Radebe’s spokesperson, Tlali ­Tlali, said yesterday the minister’s response had already been sent to Parliament.

But it has not reached the portfolio committee yet.

Source: City Press

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