The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Chris Steyn
Global arms trade expert Andrew Feinstein shares his perspective on a charge by the United States that South Africa supplied arms to Russia in a time of war and sanctions. The former ANC MP, who resigned in protest from Parliament at the ANC’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry into a multi-million rand arms deal, also shares his frustration at being left on”standby” for many years to give evidence in the fraud and corruption trial of former President Jacob Zuma and Thales, the French arms company that allegedly bribed him.
Allegations by the United States that South Africa supplied arms to Russia in a time of war and sanctions are continuing to make headlines.
Global weapons trade expert Andrew Feinstein has given BizNews his perspective.
It was Feinstein who resigned as an ANC MP over the ruling party’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry into a multi-million rand arms deal.
Feinstein – whose Shadow World Investigations probe illicit arms deals worldwide – says South Africa has a “problem” with controlling its arms exports.
He says the ministerial committee, which is supposed to approve any weapons exports through or from South Africa, has stated that there are no licenses for exports to Russia. “So that means either there weren’t exports, which is probably likely because this committee tends to say ‘yes’ to any export request it gets…Or if there has been an export, it’s illegal in terms of South African law because there has been no export license issued for it.”
Feinstein points out that there are “probably not lots of arms and ammunitions” manufactured in South Africa that Russia would want for the Ukraine conflict. However, this doesn’t mean that arms might not have been coming through South Africa. “So we might’ve been acting as some sort of gateway or conduit for arms that Russia might want from other countries, but South Africa was perceived as a sort of an inconspicuous way of getting them to Russia. That’s always possible. But we don’t know at the moment, to be quite honest, whether in fact there have been arms exported.”
As for the US’s “megaphone diplomacy” in accusing South Africa, Feinstein says: “So, either they do have evidence that arms and ammunition have at least come through South Africa on their way to Russia after Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. So it would be an illegal export. Or this could be the Americans really warning South Africa about our neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and suggesting that we really shouldn’t be cozying up to Russia, which would be their interpretation of the relationship. So it could well be one of those two things. “
Meanwhile, Feinstein also expresses his intense frustration at being left on “standby” for many years to give evidence in the trial of former President Jacob Zuma and Thales, the French arms company that allegedly bribed him.
“And even during lockdown, I was being told to be ready to be in South Africa on this date or that date, and I’d go through all of the extraordinary procedures and all of the tests, et cetera, et cetera, only to be told a day or two before I was due to leave that it had been postponed yet again. And I find it extraordinary that our judicial system allows a defendant to draw out a matter for what is, I don’t even know how many years it’s been now, but I mean, it’s probably been well over ten or even 12 or 15 years that this prosecution should have taken place.
And initially, you know, while Zuma was in power, it was obviously the NPA itself, the phrase, Sean the Sheep springs to mind, who ensured that Zuma wasn’t charged, even though he had been charged previously. And then, you know, once he was out of power, of course, we all thought the process would speed up, and to some extent it did, but then he’s brought private prosecutions against the prosecutor, who he claims is discriminating against him, which I always thought was a prosecutor’s job to do.”
“I am just amazed that our legal system allows for something like this to be strung out for this length of time. And I really think that given our own battles with corruption in the country at all levels, not just of the state, but of the private sector as well, and the collusion between the two, as we so obviously saw with state capture, the time has now come to start seeing some results.
The time has now come to figure out what has happened. Why have the Guptas not been extradited to South Africa? Who made the mistakes that allowed that extradition request not to be honoured by the UAE authorities? And how has the Jacob Zuma trial actually not come to trial where evidence is led against both him and the French arms company against whom there is overwhelming evidence of corruption? So it really does astonish me, and I find it very frustrating – but I keep on saying I hope to be back very soon to give evidence against both Jacob Zuma and the French arms company.”
- John Steenhuisen calls out Ramaphosa over Russian arms deal
- The mysterious Lady R: More questions re SA’s arms-to-Russia claims with Prof Esterhuyse
- Russia row raises SA investor risk as economy flounders
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.