National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) statement on South African arms sales regulation

6 Aug 2009

The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) is a committee of government established in terms of an Act of Parliament. The business of the committee is conducted within the framework of the law, the National Conventional Arms Control Act 41 of 2002 (NCAC Act) and the Constitution.

Let me take this opportunity to state at the outset that this government is not about to conduct business in a manner that undermines the laws enacted by the democratically elected Parliament. The NCACC has taken note of the media statements made by the Democratic Alliance (DA) on 2 August 2009 in respect of the business of the NCACC. The NCACC has found the allegations made by the DA in the statement to be of such a nature that they cannot be left unchallenged.

As the chairperson of the recently appointed NCACC, I wish to respond to the allegations made in the statement. South Africa is committed to the international agenda of responsible trade in arms. It is in view of this commitment that South Africa has established dedicated government structures to deal with the regulation of various kinds of arms. These structures include the NCACC, Non Proliferation Council (NPC) and the Firearms Control Registry. Each of these structures operates on the basis of a legal framework. It should be borne in mind that South Africa has an advanced arms industry that produces a variety of arms.

The South African government fully recognises the role and contribution of the arms industry into the South African economy. Despite this recognition of the role and contribution of the arms industry, government adopts the position that the activities of the arms industry are to be fully regulated and controlled by government given the sensitivity of the products they produce.

The establishment and operation of the NCACC should always be viewed against such background. The National Conventional Arms Control Act which forms the basis of the NCACC’s functioning encapsulates principles that the South African government considers to be critical in regulating arms trade in South Africa. These principles are consistent with the International Commitments of South Africa.

Let me emphasise that in considering and taking decisions on arms transfers, the
NCACC considers in aggregate all the principles reflected in the act. No one principle is considered in isolation of others.

In the said press statement, the DA makes various allegations in respect of the work of the NCACC. I intend to deal with each of the allegations herein under:

Permit authorisation

Section six of the National Conventional Arms Control Act provides for the meetings of the NCACC. The quorum of the meetings should be constituted by the NCACC chairperson or deputy chairperson plus three other members of the NCACC. Over the years the NCACC has observed this practice in the conduct of its own meetings. Decisions taken by the NCACC meetings are executed by the NCACC secretariat in terms of the practical issuing of permits to the defence industry applicants.

I need to point out that the secretariat is established in terms of section eight of the act to provide administrative support to the NCACC. Section 11 of the act empowers the NCACC to delegate certain powers or assign duty to the secretariat in order to facilitate the work of the NCACC. To that end, the secretariat has been duly delegated powers to issue permits within the parameters set by the NCACC through the contracting permit authorisations that are exclusively decided upon by the NCACC.

In practice the chairperson, deputy chairperson or any member of the NCACC does not physically sign every permit issued, but take decisions which are effected by the officials of the secretariat. In the recent NCACC’s interaction with Parliament, this process was fully explained. In view of this, it is inaccurate therefore to allege that officials take decisions on arms transfer indiscriminately.

In instances where urgent matters on arms transfer are to be considered, the
NCACC has developed a special mechanism in terms of which the chairperson or deputy chairperson can consider such matters and take any such decision they deem appropriate within confines of the act. I have to indicate that this mechanism is only invoked under exceptional circumstances. The resignation of seven members of the NCACC in September 2008 constituted a pressing circumstance that needed to be dealt with through the invocation of this special mechanism.

Decisions taken under those circumstances were, for all intends and purposes, in line with the provisions of the act. These decisions were informed by specific inputs provided by all relevant departments on each decision taken. Government is of the view that a full NCACC would not have come to a different conclusion.
Given the rigour of the government processes (relevant departmental reviews) that preceded the decisions taken, government is confident that the provisions of the act were not violated. These decisions have since been fully ratified by the current NCACC.

The government transition from one administration to the other has inevitably delayed the appointment of the new NCACC by about two months. The implication of this delay to the defence industry is regretted. The new NCACC was appointed to take effective office on 21 July 2009. On the date of its assumption of duty, the new NCACC was apprised of the backlog and immediately instituted corrective action. To that end, two special NCACC meetings were held to dispense with the backlog. These meetings were held on 29 July 2009 and 4 August 2009 respectively. The total value of the contracts authorised by the NCACC in these two meetings is R8,1 billion. Decisions taken at these meetings are currently being executed by the secretariat. From henceforth the NCACC would be dealing with its normal monthly work.

Secrecy

The law requires the NCACC to provide reports to Cabinet, Parliament and the United Nations. The NCACC has responded to these requirements particularly in respect of Parliament and the United Nations and these are the applicable details:

NCACC annual reports to Parliament
Year and date of submission to Parliament

2003 and 2004 annual report: August 2005
2005 annual report: April 2007
2006 annual report: November 2007
2007 annual report: June 2008
2008 annual report: approved in the NCACC meeting of 4 August 2009. To be submitted to Parliament soon.

NCACC annual reports to United Nations
Year and date of submission to United Nations

2004 annual report: June 2005
2005 annual report: June 2006
2006 annual report: July 2007
2007 annual report: September 2008
2008 annual report: to be submitted in September 2009 after approval

Capacity matters
As this NCACC has just assumed office, an appreciation of the capacity status of all established NCACC support structures in general and the secretariat in particular will be made very soon. On conclusion of such capacity appreciation, an appropriate decision would be taken.

Balance approach to arms sales

In deciding on arms transfer applications, the NCACC takes into account the guiding principles as contemplated in Section 15 of the act. It is important, however, to understand that in applying the guiding principles a balanced approach be adopted to reflect on all interests. The South African foreign policy is informed by sound international relations principles. I wish to refute the allegation that South Africa does not have a principled approach to foreign policy.

The South African government remains seized of the non static nature of international relations. As a result of this, the South African foreign policy plays an important role in the decision making process on arms transfer. The NCACC does not consider itself to be in crisis. The NCACC remains an effective structure of government on arms control. To that end, the NCACC:

* does not doubt the compliance nature of the arms transfer decisions taken since June 2008 in line with provisions of the act
* has effectively dealt with the backlog that arose in the last two months and
* nothing has slipped through anything. All decisions taken in respect of arms transfer are considered to be consistent with the provisions of the applicable law.

So-called dodgy deals

The NCACC has taken decisions that it considers to be above board and fully compliant with the provisions of the act. All decisions taken were carefully considered against the guiding principles contemplated in section five of the act. Before any decision on arms transfer is taken the NCACC insists on the following process:

* Registration: All companies and persons dealing in arms in South Africa are required by law to be registered under the act
* Submission of permit applications with all necessary supporting documentation
* Review of submitted applications by the review departments
* Consideration and collation of permit application review input
* Final consideration of permit application. On the basis of this final consideration, an appropriate decision is taken

It is this process that was followed by the NCACC in taking decisions in respect of the countries listed below:

Iran

At present there are four United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on
Iran. And these are 1 696 of 2006, 1 737 of 2006, 1 747 of 2007 and 1 803 of 2008. The last contracting authorisation issued for Iran was in July 2006 for the turbine engine test bench. This was before relevant UNSC resolutions were passed. The last temporary export permit issued for Iran was in August 2006 for the demonstration of parachute equipment. This equipment was brought back to South Africa after demonstration. Recently the NCACC turned down an application for authorisation for the aviator G-suit on the basis of the UNSC resolutions.

North Korea

At present there are two UNSC resolutions on North Korea and these are 1 718 of 2006 and 18 174 of 2009. There is no contracting authorisation issued in the last five years for North Korea. The last temporary permit issued was in 2006 for the antena-radar warning receiver demonstration purposes. The items were brought back to South Africa after the demonstration.

Syria

There is no UNSC resolution on Syria. The last contracting authorisation issued was in March 2009 for the 40MM multiple grenade launcher (MGL). No export permit was issued for Syria in the last five years. At present there is a contracting authorisation request that is still being considered by the NCACC.

Libya

There is no UNSC resolution on Libya. The last contracting authorisation issued was in March 2009 for the C130 aircrafts. Libya has purchased various weapons kinds from South Africa and these include the 40MM MGL. The last temporary export permit was issued in May 2008 for the demonstration of fuses and various kinds of ammunition. These items were returned to South Africa after demonstration. The application for contracting authorisation for armoured personnel carrier (APC) was recently approved by the NCACC.

Venezuela

There is no UNSC resolution on Venezuela. The last contracting permit was issued in March 2009 in respect of the 40MM MGL. Venezuela has purchased various kinds of military equipment from South Africa. The last export permit issued was in
March 2009 for the MGL clamps.

Zimbabwe

There is no UNSC resolution on Zimbabwe. The last contracting authorisation issued was in November 2008 for 1 x Samil truck. The last export permit issued was in March 2007 for donated South African National Defence Force (SANDF) communication equipment as part of the operation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) brigade. The contracting authorisation for rounds of ammunition is still being considered.

The newly appointed NCACC has just assumed office and is taking stock of all the activities that are conducted under the auspices of the NCACC. If during the appreciation process, areas of weakness are identified, such would be attended to. I wish to assure the South African public that the NCACC would continue to uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution and the act and take responsible decisions in respect of trade in South Africa.

Enquiries:
Tlali Tlali
Tel: 012 357 8217
Cell: 082 333 3880
Fax: 012 315 1749
E-mail: Ttlali@justice.gov.za

Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
6 August 2009
Source: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (http://www.justice.gov.za/)