Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-06-02 Reporter:

Call for a Fresh Look at SA's Defence Industry



Business Day

Date 2004-06-02

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SA's defence-related industries inherited from the apartheid era should be sustained if they are not in conflict with government policies, says Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota.

The minister argued that the industries, which include Denel, Reutech and Avitronics, could be of great benefit to the country in supplying some of the South African National Defence Force's requirements.

That could also make SA a leading supplier of weapons to countries that are unable to pay huge amounts of money in foreign currency for weapons.

Addressing Parliament's defence committee on the department's budget yesterday, Lekota said it was time a formal policy was developed for the country's defence-related industries and that a white paper should be initiated to determine this.

He said sustaining these industries was a top priority because it would mean SA would not have to buy certain categories of defence equipment.

Lekota also called for the defence review to be reopened so that the allocation of resources and the design of the defence force could be modified to accommodate the new peace-keeping operations that were part of the army's role in Africa.

He said that in 1994, when the defence review was decided on, circumstances were different.

"After 10 years there have been developments that make a fresh look at the review necessary to see if the determinations agreed to then on capabilities and quantities should remain as they are."

He said it could not have been foreseen that SA would be intensely involved in peace operations to the extent that it was now.

This new review should happen in the "very near future", Lekota said, adding that the huge cuts in the defence budget made in the early years of democracy should also be reviewed.

With acknowledgement to the Business Day.