Pretoria set for huge boost in weapons trade

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SOUTH AFRICA, having achieved peace at home, is preparing to fuel wars abroad.

Following the lifting of the United Nations arms embargo on Wednesday, South Africa's state arms manufacturer, Armscor, announced yesterday that it anticipated doubling its exports of defence equipment within the next year.

And the company will do so with the blessing of President Nelson Mandela, who said on Tuesday night he saw 'nothing wrong' in the arms trade. 'Arms,' he explained, 'are for the purpose of defending the sovereignty and the integrity of a country.'

Mr Mandela was speaking on a South African television programme shortly after the opening of parliament, where he had welcomed his country's imminent re-entry into the community of nations.

No sooner said than done: on Wednesday, while the arms embargo was being lifted in New York, South Africa was admitted into the Organisation of African Unity at a solemn ceremony in Addis Ababa.

Yesterday the Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, announced in London that South Africa was expected to rejoin the organisation by the end of the month.

At Wednesday's meeting of the UN Security Council, South Africa's Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, said his country would be able to resume its seat at the General Assembly almost immediately. He also said South Africa was ready to play a role in international peace-keeping and peace-making, especially in Africa. Africa has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of South Africa's covert arms sales in recent years.

The executive general manager of Armscor, Tielman de Waal, told a press conference in Pretoria yesterday that he expected sales to South Africa's neighbours - as well as to Latin America, East Asia, the Middle East and Europe - to increase in the next year, doubling export income from 500m rand ( pounds 90m) to R1bn. This would generate an extra 20,000 jobs.

Warmly welcoming the lifting of the embargo, Mr de Waal said South Africa's successful transition to democracy had also opened access to international suppliers. 'Foreign procurement will no longer have to be conducted in secret, and it could be conducted in a more cost-effective manner.'

'The defence industry has a substantial range of top- quality defence and security products to offer and we believe exports could increase substantially in the next few years,' Mr de Waal said.

Weapons earmarked for export included artillery, armoured vehicles, military helicopters and mine-clearing vehicles.