Thursday, March 31, 2011

South African-Libya Arms Deal?: Editorial From the Mail & Guardian

Arms trade threat to SA's values

Apr 01 2011 00:00

In April last year a South African government delegation met Muammar Gaddafi, accompanied by a fixer "well positioned in both countries on the presidential level" with a simple purpose: to sell massive quantities of the most lethal weaponry this country is capable of producing.

The Libyans were especially keen on the G6-52, the latest update to the G5 howitzers that saw action against Cuban forces in Angola during the 1980s. Among the most powerful wheel-mounted artillery pieces available, the G6 can hurl a 155mm shell 70km. Seventy-two of these guns would have netted Denel more than R6-billion.

And then there are the missiles. Denel Dynamics makes several models and it isn't clear which the Libyans wanted. It could have been the surface-to-air Umkhonto, which would have been capable of giving coalition pilots a difficult time had delivery been effected before the uprising and imposition of a no-fly zone. But any number of nasty bits of gear could have been ordered: the air-to-air Darter; the helicopter mounted mini-exocet known as the Mokopa; the Umbani precision-guided bomb, the long-range Raptor missile, and the ­vehicle-protecting Mongoose. Either way, the Libyans were prepared to spend about R650-million.

The deal, may not have gone through, although there is nothing to indicate this was a result of squeamishness on the part of the South African government. The timing of the uprising, however, may well have been a factor.

Those involved in the planned sale defend it by pointing out that no United Nations sanctions were in place at the time of the visit and that the European Union lifted its embargo in 2004. That is entirely beside the point. South Africa's defence exports are governed by the stringent National Conventional Arms Control Act, which bluntly forbids exports to governments that are engaged in internal repression, as the Libyans clearly were last year.

The Act not only captures our human rights principles, it insulates South Africa from the diplomatic risk that attaches to locally made weaponry being available for use in countries that are primed by repression for conflict.

Tragically, our arms-control rules are more honoured in the breach than the execution, as the government toadies to dictators with open wallets.

This transaction should not even have been considered. President Jacob Zuma, Denel and the department of defence have done nothing to explain to us why they even contemplated it. It is time they did.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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