World BEYOND War, April 14, 2020
SOUTH AFRICA URGED TO SUPPORT UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CALL FOR A GLOBAL CEASEFIRE IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST COVID-19 — BY PROHIBITING ARMS EXPORTS
World BEYOND War—South Africa and the Greater Macassar Civic Association have jointly written to Ministers Jackson Mthembu and Naledi Pandor, in their capacities of Chair and Deputy Chair of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), to propose a total prohibition on South African arms exports during 2020 and 2021. South Africa is one of the original 53 signatories to Mr Antonio Guterres’s ceasefire petition, and this year is again a member of the UN Security Council.
The proposal arises from the announcement on 7 April by Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) in Macassar that it has within recent days signed a major contract to export propellants for 155mm artillery shells. RDM refuses to disclose the destination, but there is a high probability these charges are intended for use in Libya. The NCAC Act stipulates that South Africa will not export armaments to a) countries that abuse human rights, b) regions in conflict and c) countries subject to UN and other arms embargoes.
Following is the letter emailed to the Ministers on 13 April:
Minister in the Presidency, Minister Jackson Mthembu and
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Minister Naledi Pandor
By email: 13 April 2020
Dear Ministers Jackson Mthembu and Naledi Pandor.
The UN Secretary-General’s call for a global cease-fire as well as the NCACC
Please convey our thanks to President Ramaphosa for his address to the nation on Thursday. He expressed what we have been waiting for since South Africa miraculously overcame apartheid. Let’s now all pull together through this present disaster and, when the lock down is lifted, make this the country of our dreams and a beacon to the world.
We are writing jointly as World Beyond War –SA and the Greater Macassar Civic Association in connection with the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire to support the ongoing struggle against Covid-19 – the common enemy that now threatens all of humanity. In particular, we are pleased to note that South Africa was one of the original fifty-three countries that signed the ceasefire petition. The figure is now over seventy.
Since South Africa is again a member of the UN Security Council, may we also express the hope that our country will take the lead in promoting the ceasefire for 2021? The US$2 trillion plus that is globally spent annually on war and military preparedness should be reallocated to economic recovery – especially for countries of the South where since 9/11, and in contravention of international law, wars have devastated both economic infrastructures and social fabric.
We are writing to you, Ministers Mthembu and Pandor, in your capacities as chair and deputy chair of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC). The NCAC Act stipulates that South Africa will not export armaments to countries that a) abuse human rights, b) to regions in conflict and c) to countries subject to UN and other arms embargoes. Soon after taking up your responsibilities with the NCACC, you courageously suspended South Africa’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
We are aware that Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM), Paramount and others are lobbying forcefully that the suspension should be lifted because of its impact on jobs. These companies however, remain blind either to their collusion with war crimes in Yemen or Libya or to the health and environmental consequences within South Africa of the armaments industry.
RDM is headquartered in Macassar, itself a community of 50 000 people, which forms part of Somerset West in the greater Cape Town metropolitan area of four million people. It is untenable to have an ammunition factory located in a residential area. The Macassar community remains acutely aware of the 1997 fire at the adjacent AE&CI dynamite factory, and the health and others traumas that it caused.
Is it necessary to have a repeat of that fire or, alternatively, a Bhopal disaster before action is taken to close down the RDM ammunition plant in Macassar? You will also be aware that an explosion there in September 2018 killed eight workers, and that the issues that raised have still not been resolved – including whether RDM should be prosecuted for criminal negligence.
More than 85 percent of RDM’s production is for export, mainly to the Middle East, and its munitions have been identified as used by Saudi Arabia and UAE to commit war crimes in Yemen. RDM announced on 7 April that it has within recent days signed a US$80 million (R1.4 billion) contract to produce several hundred thousand tactical modular charges. These NATO-standard charges are designed to propel 155mm artillery shells, deliveries being set for 2021.
Although RDM refuses to disclose the destination, there is a high probability that these charges are intended for use in Libya by either Qatar or the UAE, or both. Denel has supplied G5 and/or G6 artillery to both Qatar and UAE, and both countries should be disqualified by the NCACC as export destinations in terms of the NCAC Act criteria.
In addition to varying involvements in the Yemeni humanitarian disaster, Qatar, Turkey, UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all heavily involved in the Libyan war. Qatar and Turkey support the internationally-backed government in Tripoli. The UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia support the renegade General Khalifa Haftar. Having previously lived in the US for 20 years, Haftar is a dual Libyan-US citizen and has been alleged to be a CIA operative who is now out-of-control.
Given the high unemployment rate in South Africa, we are very conscious of the need for job creation and, specifically, in Macassar. The arms industry, internationally, is a capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive industry. It is a complete fallacy perpetrated by the industry that it is an indispensable source of job creation. In addition, the industry is very heavily subsidized and a drain on public resources, as illustrated by Denel’s disastrous financial history.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the land at RDM and the adjacent old AE&CI dynamite factory is heavily contaminated environmentally, and almost certainly unfit for human habitation. It is an area of about 3 000 hectares (30 square kilometers), and apparently ideally suited for redevelopment for renewable and sustainable energy projects. International experience confirms renewable energy is a far more efficient and productive creator of more and better-paid jobs than the armaments industry.
Accordingly, Ministers Mthembu and Pandor, we request your active support both globally and domestically for the UN Secretary General’s appeal for a worldwide ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic. We further suggest that it should be extended by a total prohibition on South African exports of armaments during both 2020 and 2021. As Mr Guterres has reminded the international community, war is the most non-essential evil and is an indulgence that the world cannot afford given our present economic and social crises.
We also request your support in accessing the financial and entrepreneurial resources to transform Macassar by redevelopment of the RDM and AE&CI properties for productive and peaceful purposes instead of war, and the economic and social upliftment of our community.
Terry Crawford-Browne Rhoda-Ann Bazier
World Beyond War – SA Cape Town City Councillor and
Greater Macassar Civic Association