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
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.