Sunday, April 17, 2011


South Africa arms Swazi government ahead of crackdown on pro-democracy protests

By Guy Lamb

Senior Research Fellow

Institute for Security Studies

Last week the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) tabled South Africa's 2010 arms export report in the National Assembly. The report reveals that the South African government approved the export of arms, ammunition and riot control equipment to Swaziland totalling R11 million. This transaction is deeply concerning given the recent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, and that the National Conventional Arms Control Act compels the NCACC to avoid approving arms transfers "to governments that systematically violate or suppress human rights and fundamental freedoms".

The Act does not provide a definition of "systematic" human rights violations, which makes it difficult to determine if the arms exports to Swaziland constituted an actual breach of South African arms export legislation. Nonetheless, given the decades of autocratic rule and suppression by the Swazi monarchy of popular agitation for democratic reforms, the decision by the South African government to approve such arms sales is questionable.

The 2010 arms export report shows that Swaziland was not the only problematic destination for South African manufactured arms and related equipment. There was a noticeable amplification in arms sales to undemocratic governments (many of which have chequered human rights records) in the Middle East and North Africa. Between 2007 and 2010 there were sizeable increase in arms sales to the following countries: Egypt from R21.3 million to R97 million; Jordan from 14.2 million to 28.2 million; Libya from R1.3 million to R69 million; and UAE from R183.2 million to R577.6 million. In 2010, both Syria (R7.8 million) and Yemen (R373.9 million) became clients of the South African defence industry.

To read the full article click here.

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