Publication: Business Report Issued: Date: 2004-03-15 Reporter: Wiseman Khuzwayo

Asmal Opens Way for Dodgy Arms Sales



Business Report

Date 2004-03-15


Wiseman Khuzwayo

Web Link


Exporters of equipment that has dual potential for civilian and military use are having a field day because Kader Asmal, the chairman of the national conventional arms control committee, has not gazetted a list of items that are to be prohibited or controlled by the committee.

Asmal, who is also the minister of education, is required to do this under the National Conventional Arms Control Act.

His failure has left a loophole, which means that South African produced equipment could be used to fuel conflicts.

Rob Thompson, a member of the executive of the Ceasefire Campaign, a group advocating demilitarisation in South Africa, said: “This means that the [arms control committee] has no control and does not know where it stands.”

Without legislated oversight, the shadowy world of arms dealing hides behind confidentiality agreements, making it impossible to determine the extent of the trade.

Fred Marais, the director of the directorate of conventional arms control, confirmed that Asmal had not done the gazetting.

He said he did not know when Asmal would be doing this.

The legislation came into effect in 2002. It regulates the trade in conventional arms, in line with internationally accepted norms.

It requires all arms exporters to register with the regulator, the directorate of conventional arms control.

It is augmented by the Non-Proliferation of Weapons Act. South Africa is also a signatory to 10 international conventions and treaties that regulate the export of weapons.

The arms control act defines dual-use goods as products, technologies, services or other goods which, in addition to their normal use and application for civilian purposes, can be applied for the furtherance of military capability.

The directorate has categorised these as support equipment that is usually employed in the direct support of combat systems but has no inherent capability to kill or destroy.

Included in this category are: electronic equipment; radio and communication equipment; systems such as flight control, tactical observation, propulsion, missile tracking and guidance; weapon-firing sights and transport equipment for logistical support.

The list is from the 1996 Wassenaar agreement, the first global multilateral arrangement on export controls for conventional weapons and sensitive dual-use goods and technologies.

The agreement was signed to promote transparency, the exchange of views and information, and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations.

The Ceasefire Campaign has just released the interim results of its research of who is who in the country’s arms industry. The research conducted by Joleen Steyn of the University of Port Elizabeth, has found 78 manufacturers of arms, both conventional and of dual purpose.

Marais refused to compare the directorate’s data with that of Steyn, on the grounds that the information supplied to the regulator was confidential. However, he did say that his list has 214 companies.

With acknowledgements to Wiseman Khuzwayo and Business Report.