Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2002-07-24 Reporter: Terry CrawfordBrowne Editor:

Industry Firepower


Publication  Cape Times
Date 2002-07-24
Reporter Terry Crawford-Browne
Web Link


Confirmation that "Britain's policy on arms sales is a mess" (Cape Times, Second Opinion, July 23) and that BAE Systems "owns" the British government comes as no surprise.

Does BAE Systems also "own" the South African government?

Last year's arms deal report confirmed that former defence minister Joe Modise overruled the preferences of the SA air force high command, and insisted upon the purchase of BAE Systems Hawk and Gripen warplanes. Why?

Earlier allegations in 1998/1999 that BAE Systems had bribed South African politicians and officials were referred to the British government for investigation.

The eventual response : it was not a crime in Britain to bribe foreigners, therefore there was no crime to investigate.

A survey recently released on the Helen Suzman Foundation finds that 62% of ANC voters want the arms deal cancelled, 19% want it cut, and only 12% support it.

South Africa's policy on arms sales is also a mess.

When the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) was established in 1995, its guidelines and rationale, on paper, were hailed as among the best in the world.

The subsequent experience is that the NCACC guidelines are not enforced. The United Nations and organisations such as Human Rights Watch continue to complain about suppliers of SA weapons to the Congo, the Great Lakes and Angola.

Minister Kader Asmal had the gall to tell parliament in 1998 that exports of weapons to Algeria were being approved because that country had a "democratically-elected, internationally recognised government, and that the weapons would only be used for external self-defence".

The NCACC still has not reported SA weapons exports for the years 2000 and 2001.

Meanwhile, government ministers are marketing exports of G6 artillery to both India and Saudi Arabia.

Previous exports to Oman and the UAE may well end up in Pakistan.

So we face the prospect of a war between India and Pakistan, and of South Africa having supplied both sides with the means of delivering nuclear warheads.

For the past three years, a handful of NGO activists have successfully forced the government to withdraw legislation for the NCACC. The minister is reportedly furious at our cheek, but is apparently determined to ram the NCAC Bill through parliament this year.

Among the provisions of the bill is blanket secrecy over anything to do with armaments, which may not be broken without the permission of a competent authority - in other words, the minister.

It is a throwback to the worst features of the apartheid era.

The NCAC Bill provides that citizens and/or the media are threatened by 20 years' imprisonment should they reveal unlawful conduct by the armaments industry and/or the NCACC.

With acknowledgements to Terry Crawford-Browne and Cape Times.