Radebe sets record straight on arms procurement

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pretoria - Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe says government would not act in a way that undermines the laws governing the procurement of arms.

He was responding to the Democratic Alliance's (DA's) claims that the country's arms control body had authorised "dodgy" deals such as a weapons exhibition for North Korea and possible sales to Iran, Syria and Libya.

The DA alleged that a number of "dodgy" deals had "slipped through the cracks" when the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) last met in 2008.

In a five-page response to the claims, Minister Radebe said the NCAC was committed to conducting its business within the framework of the law and described the allegations to be in such a nature that they can never be left unchallenged.

"South Africa is committed to the international agenda of responsible trade in arms," he said. 

It was in this spirit of commitment that South Africa established government structures to deal with the regulation of various kinds of arms. The structures included the NCACC, the Non-Proliferation Council and the Fire Arms Control Registry, said Minister Radebe, who is also Chairperson of the NCACC.

He said each of these structures operated on the basis of a legal framework and that there was no way the alleged "dodgy" deal could have occurred.

"Decisions taken by the NCACC meetings are executed by the NCACC secretariat in terms of the practical issuing of the permits to the defence industry applicants," added Minister Radebe.

According to the relevant legislation, the secretariat has delegated powers to issue permits within the parameters set by the NCACC.

"In the recent NCACC's interaction with Parliament, this process was fully explained, it is inaccurate therefore to allege that officials take decisions on arms transfer indiscriminately," the minister said.

He said in instances where urgent matters on arms transfer were to be considered, the NCACC has developed a mechanism in terms of which the chairperson or deputy chairperson can consider such matters.

Minister Radebe said the Portfolio Committee in Parliament will investigate the DA's claims and how it had arrived at their allegations.