South Africa Defense Forces in a Failing Democracy

South Africa

South Africa appears to be a failing democracy. In light of recent South African National Defense Force (SANDF) activities, it seems clear that the country is falling prey to politics of greed and deception. Looking more closely at the dealings of the Defense Forces and certain government functionaries,  a web of corruption, deceit and seemingly endless fraudulent deals is beginning to come to light.

The story behind the export of surplus SANDF vehicles, and the people involved in the deal, is one of blatant manipulation and fraud. In 2003, a company called First Consult was contracted by then Secretary of Defense, January Masilela. Masilela wanted a forensic investigation around alleged irregularities in the temporary departure from the country in 2002 for “exhibition and demonstration” purposes of a Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicle to Jordan. In fact, the report determined that the vehicle was given, without the approval of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee ( NCAC,) and only returned when the investigation was pursued.

The First Consult report detailed its findings on the export of 320 Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicles to, among others, Jordan. This was done through an apparent government to government contract. The vehicles were obtained from the SANDF at prices of below R 50,000 each, which is less than the scrap metal value of the vehicles. According to information uncovered by local sources, they were sold to Jordan for nearly R 4.2 million.

Moeletsi Mbeki was, according to the First Consult review, the Chairperson of the King Abdullah Design Bureau in Jordan, and the reported purchaser. Craig Savides and Ivor Ichikowitz, from the manufacturing company Paramount, famous for building the Matador armored mine-protected vehicle, were members of the Virlean Initiative (VI.) The VI is one of two South African companies which handled these exports under the auspices of permits received which have been described as “irregular.” Ichikowitz and Savides are directors of both companies.

Ichikowitz eventually went on to buy Allied Technology and Engineering (ATE) along with other defense companies, and has announced that Paramount was just contracted at the end of 2013 to manufacture armored vehicles for Kazakhstan. Ichikowitz and his family, a notorious figures who have ties to the seats of power of several nations, has also been involved of late with President Joyce Banda of Malawi. They appeared recently in an article from Nyasa Times where it is reported that they threatened to sue some Malawi political activists, warning them against publishing any “defamatory allegations” against the family.  Ichikowitz and Matthews Phosa (a former African National Congress attorney and politician) have integrated business relations. It was the same Phosa who insisted that Ichikowitz supply his plane to fly President Zuma around.

Vanessa Du Toit was the Inspector at the Directorate Conventional Arms Control (DCAC) at that time. She subsequently became the Director of Compliance at the NCAC. This is a cabinet committee which appears to be involved in stealing and creating false appearances and situations around business dealings in South Africa. The actual mission of the committee is to regulate the manufacture and sale of military weapons, ammunition, and vehicles. Given that more than R$200 million was reportedly parked abroad out of this transaction and never investigated by the committee, their mission may have been compromised.

Osprea Logistics, a multifaceted vehicle manufacturing and logistics company, was purported to have developed an Armored Personal Carrier (APC) referred to as a Mamba Mk IV. This was despite the fact that British Aerospace (BAE) already had the data packs (Intellectual Property) for these vehicles. There was never a Mamba Mk IV built. The closest vehicle to this is an RG 31 and an RG 32. Some have alleged that even the blast certificates on these Mamba Mk IV vehicles were forged.

During this time, various South African companies were engaged in the foreign trade with respect to APCs. In this environment, Osprea Logistics was formed by Francis Brandt, a British citizen operating from of Cape Town. He supplied, over a period, more than 220 vehicles to the African peace-keeping force out of Uganda. Initially, he had no permits, but he was granted permits extremely quickly when it came to light that he had not been issued any. According to Vanessa Du Toit, this was in order to “educate” Osprea.

Francis Brandt teamed up with another suspect company, N4 Trucks, (a company incorporating the Panzer Technologies and who build military vehicles). This company is believed to be a cloak for Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor). It is believed that Armscor officially does not know about the charade this company is perpetrating. Mechem, another South African Military company who are part of the Denel group, teamed up with N4 to build APC’s and export them. Mechem financed the deal for the project. Theo Pistorius, uncle of Oscar Pretorius, was the prime mover and shaker for this transaction.

Several South African companies would be able to provide refurbished soft skin vehicles and APC’s. Among them were OTT Technologies and Drakensberg, but that did not happen. Osprea made a profit of approximately R60 million, gross. Brandt, along with a man named Farhad Ahmed Dockrat, who holds a prominent position at Denel, were parties in this lucrative deal. Dockrat, along with his cousin, Junaid Ismail Dockrat, were listed by the UN Security Council as terror suspects at the behest of the United States (US) government. The two are reportedly linked to Al Quaeda, and are described as financiers for terrorists. The accusations against them have not been recognized by the South African government, and they deny the charges. Permits were issued for them without delays. For that there were no problems.

Examining the activities of the defense forces leads to the conclusion that South Africa clearly could be failing as a democracy. It is a matter of course that people with contacts end up being handsomely rewarded. Integrated Convoy Protection (Reva) is a South African company which was pressured to take Masilela and his brothers on during the time that January Masilela was the Secretary of Defense. At that time they would get their permits fast. Since Masilela’s death and the brothers leaving Reva, they seem to find it more difficult to obtain their permits.

This is a recurring refrain in the corrupt arms industry in South Africa. Central to all of these dealings is Vanessa Du Toit. She eventually married Matie Du Toit, the former Chief of Staff in Masilela’s office. Apparently he is still occupied in the arms industry. Vanessa Du Toit has always been a member of and remains an influential figure in, framing companies.

Imperial Armor in Pietermaritzburg can attest to the problems they had to endure despite applying for permits that were never processed by the DCAC, the government department responsible for issuing permits. According to Du Toit, Jeff Radebe wanted to slap Imperial with a multi-million rand penalty, despite the DCAC not doing their job.

It is becoming abundantly clear that certain of the same people continuously pop up in all the underhanded shenanigans of the arms industry. The regulatory authorities are nothing less than thieving entities fixated on stuffing their own pockets. No national pride, only national shame. The defense forces activities highlight an ongoing problem contributing to the failing democracy of South Africa.

Editorial By Laura Oneale