Will we be sell­ing our coun­try’s soul to the high­est bid­der?

SA-man­u­fac­tured weapons and its tech­nol­ogy might soon be help­ing to slaugh­ter Ye­me­nis

Pretoria News - - Opinion -

WE ARE very quick to con­demn the Amer­i­cans when a school bus or a mar­ket place in Ye­men is bombed by Saudi Ara­bia us­ing Amer­i­can weapons. But if South Africans don’t speak up and make their voices heard, soon it might be South African weapons of war that abet crimes against hu­man­ity, mas­sacring civil­ians in Ye­men.

On Au­gust 9, CNN re­vealed that it was US weapons made by Lock­heed Martin that were used in the Saudi bomb­ing of a Ye­meni school bus, killing 44 chil­dren and wound­ing many more.

The hor­ror of the atroc­ity was ab­horred. But the school bus strike was only the lat­est in a con­sis­tent pat­tern of mas­sacres and air strikes on civil­ian tar­gets that in­clude hos­pi­tals by the Saudi-led coali­tion.

Even the sec­ond largest US arms pro­ducer, Boe­ing, has been linked to the deaths of hun­dreds of civil­ians in Ye­men. Frag­ments of Boe­ing bombs were al­legedly found in the de­bris of a 2016 at­tack on a mar­ket place in Sana’a that killed 107 civil­ians, in­clud­ing 25 chil­dren.

Hu­man Rights Watch has come out say­ing that coali­tion airstrikes had caused in­dis­crim­i­nate and dis­pro­por­tion­ate civil­ian deaths in Ye­men, and called for the sus­pen­sion of all arms sales to Saudi Ara­bia.

How is it ex­actly that the spokes­woman of our state-owned arms man­u­fac­turer Denel, Vuyelwa Qinga, re­sponds to ques­tions about pos­si­ble arms deals with Saudi Ara­bia by say­ing: “Denel would wel­come any coun­try that looks at South Africa for the pro­cure­ment of de­fence ma­te­rial.”

Ms Qinga, did you even know that your state­ment vi­o­lates South Africa’s Na­tional Con­ven­tional Arms Con­trol Act of 2003?

Are you even aware that the act stip­u­lates that “The Repub­lic is a re­spon­si­ble mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and will not trade in con­ven­tional arms with states en­gaged in re­pres­sion, ag­gres­sion or ter­ror­ism”?

Or maybe you are un­aware that Saudi Ara­bia has been at war with Ye­men since 2015 in which es­ti­mates put the num­ber of killed and in­jured in the fight­ing at more than 16 000 civil­ians?

The UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees es­ti­mates that the Saudi-led coali­tion air at­tacks cause two thirds of the re­ported civil­ian deaths.

While Denel con­sid­ers not only sell­ing weapons to Saudi Ara­bia, it gets worse – Denel is con­sid­er­ing tak­ing a huge undis­closed amount of money from Saudi Ara­bia in re­turn for our in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty on weapons tech­nol­ogy.

Not only might South African-made weapons soon be killing civil­ians in Ye­men, but our weapons tech­nol­ogy may be sold to Saudi Ara­bia to en­able the Saudis to man­u­fac­ture their own weapons to be used on civil­ians in Ye­men. I don’t know which is worse.

Saudi Ara­bian Mil­i­tary In­dus­tries chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drea Sch­wer has been boast­ing that the Saudis are ex­pect­ing to con­clude their first part­ner­ship deals with South African arms man­u­fac­tur­ers by the end of the year.

Sch­wer has ad­mit­ted that the Saudis want ac­cess to South African weapons tech­nol­ogy. Sch­wer was quoted as hav­ing said, “Denel must com­mit to trans­fer its tech­nol­ogy to Saudi Ara­bia and build up our lo­cal ca­pa­bil­ity in man­u­fac­tur­ing and en­gi­neer­ing.”

The fact that Denel is even con­sid­er­ing such a deal flies in the face of South Africa’s for­eign pol­icy un­der the Ramaphosa ad­min­is­tra­tion, which states that hu­man rights and the pro­mo­tion of peace in the world will be the cor­ner­stone of our for­eign pol­icy.

Where is the Na­tional Con­ven­tional Arms Con­trol Com­mit­tee in all this? The NCACC was es­tab­lished ac­cord­ing to the act to pre­vent pre­cisely the abyss South Africa is about to fall into.

The NCACC is a com­mit­tee of seven min­is­ters, presided over by the Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency, which is sup­posed to en­sure that our weapons or weapons tech­nol­ogy is not sold to coun­tries that are in­volved in ag­gres­sion.

Legally, South Africa, un­der its own law, is not al­lowed to sell arms or arms tech­nol­ogy to Saudi Ara­bia.

The NCACC was fully func­tional un­der the first two demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions, but we have to ask why has the NCACC not been meet­ing or func­tion­ing as the act en­vi­sioned?

A year ago the NCACC had asked Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe for a re­port on South Africa sell­ing arms to Saudi Ara­bia.

Radebe had promised to look into the mat­ter but he has never re­ported back to the com­mit­tee, and the com­mit­tee never gave him a dead­line by which to re­port back.

It is time for the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee to play its over­sight role.

We know Denel needs a cash in­jec­tion and that it wasn’t able to pay the full salaries of its se­nior staff last month, thanks to cor­rup­tion un­der the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But South Africa can­not sell its soul to the high­est bid­der at the ex­pense of our val­ues and prin­ci­ples. Af­ter all, Nor­way, Ger­many and Bel­gium have al­ready sus­pended arms sales to Saudi Ara­bia. LAN­GUAGE – indige­nous lan­guages in par­tic­u­lar in South Africa has al­ways been a very sticky is­sue.

It is un­set­tling that 24 years into democ­racy we are still de­bat­ing whether indige­nous lin­guis­tic com­mu­ni­ties should be given the same plat­form as the pre­vi­ously and still ad­van­taged lan­guages, namely English and Afrikaans.

The marginalised indige­nous lin­guis­tic com­mu­ni­ties con­tinue feel­ing the pres­sure to as­sim­i­late and adapt to lin­guis­tic cul­tures and iden­ti­ties that con­trast with who they are.The use of indige­nous lan­guages at four or five ra­dio sta­tions and the pro­vi­sion of sub­ti­tles for some TV pro­grammes are far from the ac­tual re­al­i­sa­tion of mul­ti­lin­gual­ism.

TV chan­nels that are as­signed to indige­nous lan­guages have al­most 30% of pro­grammes that are pre­sented in pure indige­nous lan­guages – the rest are still in English.

The few indige­nous news­pa­pers that are around are known to only a few. If the sys­tem was in­deed in sup­port of these ini­tia­tives then these news­pa­pers, writ­ten in indige­nous lan­guages, would be made avail­able reg­u­larly all over the coun­try. The jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors must also be ac­knowl­edged and given all the sup­port they de­serve.

Ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of South Africa, 1993: “(1) Afrikaans, English, isiNde­bele, Sesotho sa Le­boa, Sesotho, siSwati, Xit­songa, Setswana, Tshiv­enda, isiXhosa and isiZulu shall be the of­fi­cial South African lan­guages at na­tional level, and con­di­tions shall be cre­ated for their de­vel­op­ment and for the pro­mo­tion of their equal use and en­joy­ment.”

In con­tin­ues, “(9) Leg­is­la­tion, as well as of­fi­cial pol­icy and prac­tice, in re­la­tion to the use of lan­guages at any level of gov­ern­ment shall be sub­ject to and based on the pro­vi­sions of this sec­tion and the fol­low­ing prin­ci­ples:

The creation of con­di­tions for the de­vel­op­ment and for the pro­mo­tion of the equal use and en­joy­ment of all of­fi­cial South African lan­guages;

The ex­ten­sion of those rights re­lat­ing to lan­guage and the sta­tus of lan­guages which at the com­mence­ment of this Con­sti­tu­tion are re­stricted to cer­tain re­gions;

The pre­ven­tion of the use of any lan­guage for the pur­poses of ex­ploita­tion, dom­i­na­tion or di­vi­sion;

The pro­mo­tion of mul­ti­lin­gual­ism and the pro­vi­sion of trans­la­tion fa­cil­i­ties."

There has been re­luc­tance from those meant to up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion to spell out ex­actly what is ex­pected of the cus­to­di­ans of these indige­nous lan­guages.

Some­how pupils from African indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties have to learn Afrikaans as their First Ad­di­tional Lan­guage with English be­ing made their mother-tongue lan­guage, by de­fault.

It is equally sad that even those schools that have de­cided to in­tro­duce isiXhosa in their cur­ricu­lum have only one isiXhosa teacher for the en­tire Foun­da­tion Phase, where each Grade has a min­i­mum of three classes.

It is ob­vi­ous then that the isiXhosa teacher will not cope in such an en­vi­ron­ment and is de­lib­er­ately set up to fail.

The Use of Of­fi­cial Lan­guages Act, of 2012, pro­vides for the es­tab­lish­ment of lan­guage units in na­tional de­part­ments, na­tional pub­lic en­ti­ties and na­tional pub­lic en­ter­prises. I want to be­lieve that the call also ex­tends to all in­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing.

The marginal­i­sa­tion of indige­nous lan­guages and cul­tures did not be­gin and end with the dawn of colo­nial­ism and democ­racy, but it is more of a so­cio-lin­guis­tic gen­er­a­tional curse and part of a vi­cious cy­cle.

The first Pi­o­neers of Xhosa Lit­er­a­ture lecture was held in the Li­brary Au­di­to­rium at UWCon Wed­nes­day.

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