Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis:
A Monthly Journal of the IDSA

April 2000 (Vol. XXIV No. 1)


Coping with Small Arms Threat in South Africa
By Ruchita Beri *


In the last three decades, the Southern African region has had its fair share of conflict and strife. The main causes of conflict revolved around issues of ethnic identity, nationalism and scanty resources. These conflicts have left a legacy of despair: an increased availability of small arms throughout the region. 1 Proliferation of small arms and light weapons is not restricted to a particular region and has become a global phenomenon. More than 500-million small arms are estimated to be circulating around the globe and large numbers continue to be produced legally and illegally. Small arms and light weapons were the weapons of choice in many contemporary conflicts because they were increasingly lethal, relatively cheap, easily portable and concealed and in many cases required minimal maintenance. These assault rifles, machine guns, pistols and grenade launchers killed millions of civilians, especially children. When conflicts ended they often wound up in the hands of criminals, smugglers and terrorists.

The Southern African region is awash with small arms and munitions, flowing freely across borders of countries. Nowhere is the impact felt more than in South Africa. It is estimated that there are about eight million illegal small arms circulating in South Africa. In addition there are four million licensed small arms in South Africa. The incidence of licensed firearms reported as lost or stolen continues to increase every year. The extent of the problem is best reflected by the ease with which criminals, political antagonists, vigilante groups and others can acquire firearms. Yesterday's weapons of war and political liberation have become today's weapons of crime and violence in South Africa. This paper endeavours to investigate the threat from these weapons as well as analyse the factors responsible for this scourge and finally identify the ways to curb this proliferation.


The Threat

The increased availability of small arms is threatening the very fabric of the South African society, affecting daily lives of the people. As a result of which a culture of violence is emerging in the region threatening democracy and development. Since 1989 murders have increased in South Africa by 61 per cent, armed robberies by 119 per cent and rapes by 80 per cent. 2 This rise in violence and crime has had an adverse effect on business and domestic investment is on the decline. According to the Nedcor Project on Crime, Violence and Investment, in 1995 crime cost South Africa R 31.3 billion or 5.6 per cent of the estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 1996.

The rise of violent crime linked to proliferation of small arms is one of the major threats to the security of South Africa in the post apartheid era. However crime and violence were no strangers in the apartheid era either. The new and oft under estimated phenomenon is the proliferation of small arms which has intensified the level of crime. According to the SANDF, "the proliferation of illegal weapons is probably the most significant contributing factor to crime in the country." 3 South Africans have daily experienced the effects of weapons proliferation as robberies, vehicle hijacking, gangsterism, murder, rape, taxi violence and other crimes are increasingly committed with firearms. Crime statistics of the country suggest that the link is firmly established. Indeed, the South African Minister for Safety and Security, Sydney Mufamadi, told Parliament in June 1996 that there were altogether 481 known crime syndicates operating in South Africa, of which 112 were involved in vehicle and weapons smuggling. 4 Further, medical research on cases of trauma has revealed that that there is an increase in the number of injuries and deaths caused by firearms. During the period 1985-95, wounds caused by firearms had increased by more than 800 per cent in Kwazulu-Natal alone. In the same period gunshot wounds were responsible for three times as many deaths as stab wounds. In reality, potential victims of crime and violence are more likely to be confronted with a firearm than any other weapon.

A glance at Table 1 reveals that in 1994 small arms accounted for 7,803 murders, by 1998 there was a drastic increase and they accounted for 24,964 murders. However in the first six months of 1999 there is a decline to about 5957 cases of murders using small arms. Crime statistics also show an increase in robberies using small arms.


Table 1. Use of small arms in violent crime in South Africa
1994 7,803 17,744 43,279
1995 7,169 7,245* 45,216
1996 11,130 22,402 51,249
1997 11,190 20,955 54,622
1998 24,964 29,202 69,241
1999 (Jan-June) 5,957 10,314 36,861
* Between the period January 1 to June 30 1995


The number of robberies with small arms increased from 51,249 in 1996 to 69,241 in 1998.The upward trend continued in the first six months of 1999 with 36,861 cases reported of robberies using small arms. It appears that there are weapons of different calibre involved in the crimes committed. They include Rifles- AK-47s, R1, R4, Shotguns, Pistols- Stechkins, Scorpions, Makarovs, Tokarevs etc; revolvers and home-made firearms. While the use of illegal AK-47 assault rifles in common criminal activities is alarming, according to a study the popular perception of the AK-47 being the dominant weapon of crime is false. The findings reveal that pistols and revolvers rather than assault rifles are the most frequently used weapon. In 1995 in the annual murders committed using various types of weapons assault rifles accounted for only 5.7 per cent while pistols/revolvers accounted for 75 per cent. 5 This statistic suggests that the South African media's obsession with AK-47s is an ideological hangover from the demonisation of ANC guerrillas that was widespread during the apartheid era. While there is public outrage at the high level of violent crime in South Africa it is the tools of trade, which are not sufficiently targeted.


Factors Fuelling Proliferation

The proliferation in South Africa involves the continued growth of legal (licensed) weapons as well as illegal weapons. The latter includes weapons that are lost/stolen and weapons that are smuggled across the country's borders. To understand the proliferation in small arms in South Africa we have to take into account various factors that have facilitated the influx of these weapons in the region:

Cold War Legacy

In the first stage, during the Cold War there was massive arming of various protagonists by the superpowers and their allies. The former Warsaw Pact countries as well as Cuba and China supplied arms to the Popular Movement for Liberation of Angola (MPLA), The People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), MK in South Africa, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) and the Front for the liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO)-rifles, carbines, AK-47s, land mines, limpet mines, mortars, hand grenades, pistols and ammunition. Western countries including the United States, West Germany, France, United Kingdom and Israel provided the apartheid government with military hardware and various Western arms manufacturers sent covert military aid to South Africa in defiance of the United Nations arms embargo. Both apartheid South Africa and United States supplied arms to Angola.

Legacy of Apartheid Era

Under the rubric of the doctrine of "Total Strategy" designed to deal with the total onslaught of communist forces, apartheid government of South Africa launched a destabilisation policy, first against the neighbouring states and later against ANC within South Africa. As part of this process weapons were supplied to the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) and other rebel movements in the Southern African region through the former SADF Directorate of Special Tasks (operating under Military Intelligence). It has been revealed that during 1982-83, the apartheid state had four projects underway- Operation Disa (support of UNITA in Angola), Operation Drama (support of Zimbabwe insurgents), Operation Latsa (support of Lesotho Liberation Army) and Operation Mila (support of Mozambican RENAMO insurgents). 6

Weapons for these projects were procured through the South African arms procurement agency ( ARMSCOR) or were captured by the SADF during their direct military action in Angola and Namibia. Many of these arms had former Warsaw Pact origins, like the AK-47s, LMGs, RPGs, hand grenades, mortar bombs and mines. Almost 40,000 AK-47s were purchased from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary and China between 1976 and 1986, specifically for UNITA. AK-47's purchased from Bulgaria and Hungary were also supplied to RENAMO. One of the most deadly small arms produced and supplied by South Africa was the anti- personnel land-mine. An estimated 10 to 20 million land mines currently lie undetected in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia- the remnants of apartheid states destabilisation policy. 7

After 1990 the destabilisation strategy was turned inward to weaken the ANC and block the democratisation process. A crucial element in this strategy was the arming and training of a surrogate force of Inkatha vigilantes who operated largely under the direction of the third force which was made of elements from army and police. Evidence reveals that it organised much of the township violence between 1990 and 1994. The main weapons used were AK-47s, R-4, R-5, and R-1 rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Ineffective Post-Conflict Disarmament

The lack of effective disarmament during multilateral peace support operations is also regarded as one of the major reasons for the proliferation of small arms in Southern Africa. In Namibia, the UN forces were able to implement relatively effective arms control and disarmament measures. United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) forces were able to neutralise many of the hidden arms caches in Namibia prior to the elections. They also monitored and verified the withdrawal of South African arms and equipment from Namibia. In terms of disarming the combatants all South Western People's Organisation (SWAPO) forces and the military and paramilitary forces established by South Africa were disarmed and demobilised before the elections under the supervision of UNTAG. All weapons and equipment which belonged to the South African forces were confiscated and guarded by UNTAG, and handed over to the new Namibian forces after independence. However, in the post-independence period it became clear that many weapons had remained outside the disarmament process. This was because combatants from both sides had been able to establish arms caches during the transition period. Many of these weapons have found their way to neighbouring countries like South Africa.

In Angola, United Nation's Verification Mission for Angola II (UNAVEM II )did not have the resources or the mandate to try and implement effective arms control measures and thereby reduce the number of weapons prevalent in the country. According to UN sources, the weapons that were collected were poorly guarded and stored in unsecured locations in the camps. The weapons collected at the assembly point were of poor quality and limited quantity thus suggesting that the MPLA and the UNITA forces were storing weapons for future contingencies. The inability of the UN forces to implement effective control mechanism implied that vast quantities of arms remained outside the purview of the disarmament process. Many of these arms ended up flowing to other countries in the region such as Namibia and South Africa. There have been reports of young Angolan women exchanging AK-47s for second hand clothes at the Namibian border with Angola. 8

In Mozambique the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (UNOMOZ) forces attempted to collect a large number of weapons which were estimated to be in the country at the time of the peace agreement. As in the case of Angola the weapons collected during the UNOMOZ operations were of poor quality, thus suggesting that many of the weapons were kept outside the disarmament process for future contingencies. Those weapons that were collected during the disarmament process were often stored in assembly areas and not securely stored. Further, state armouries were not adequately guarded and there were many instances of leaks from the state armouries during the UNOMOZ mission. These leaks continued after the formation of a new national army in Mozambique. The proliferation of small arms has become a significant problem in post-settlement Mozambique. Many of these weapons have found their way into neighbouring countries like South Africa and Malawi. Mozambique constitutes the largest single source of supply of arms to the South African domestic market. 9

The demobilisation and integration process after conflict resolution in South Africa was particularly complicated. Seven different armed formations had to be combined to create a single, legitimate and representative armed force. These included the MK (ANC's armed wing), SADF, and the four homeland armies. The process was supposed to entail full disclosure of arms caches established in South Africa by the MK. However a leaking of these weapons as well as those from the home land armies arsenal since 1990 has undoubtedly contributed to the rise in criminal activity. Only in October 1994, six months after the democratic elections did the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) launch Operation Rollerball a top secret operation designed to recover ANC's arms caches within South Africa and in the neighbouring states. In February 1995 it was announced that the operation had been successful-despite the fact that the operation only recovered 70 AK-47 rifles, 935 hand grenades, 53 pistols and 316 limpet mines. 10 Many sites could not be located and those traced, were found empty. This was hardly surprising given the time lapse. It is possible that these lost arms have been utilised in other illegal and destabilising activities.

Apart from ineffective disarmament during the transition period and lack of control over new armed formations the proliferation of small arms in South Africa is also due to the failure of demobilisation policies particularly in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia to provide for social integration of ex-combatants. Lack of economic opportunities has forced the demobilised soldiers to sell their weapons.

Licensed Firearms

Continued growth of legal, licensed firearms is one of the major sources of proliferation in South Africa. The decades of apartheid insecurity gave rise to the widespread practice of obtaining a personal firearm for the purpose of self-defence, particularly amongst white South Africans for whom the approval of such a license was relatively easy. In the post-apartheid era, the rise in violent crime has sustained this practice. The Arms and Ammunition Act, no.75 of 1969, which regulates the licensing procedure, does not set overly stringent requirements for the issuing of a licence. As a result, the personal acquisition of a licensed firearm is largely determined by the costs incurred by the purchase of the weapon rather than by the licensing procedure. As of the end of 1995, there were more than 4 million licensed firearms in South Africa, an increase of 64 per cent on the 1986 total of 2,492,633 licensed firearms. Some 4.7 per cent of licence holders were classified as "non-white" in 1983, but by 1993 some 28 per cent of the members of the South African Gunowners Association were black. This increase in licensed firearm ownership in the black community reflects not only the demand for the firearms in this community, but also the less restricted nature of the licensing system in post-apartheid South Africa.

There is a need to tighten the controls on the licensed firearms in South Africa. It has been revealed through a study that the main source of firearms for the illegal criminal market is the licensed firearms. To quote an official SAPS document: "the main internal source of illegal firearms remain the theft, robbery or loss of firearms in legal possession". 11 This is also reflected in the higher incidence of handguns being used in crime than in the case with typically perceived illegal weapons such as AK-47s. The incidence of licensed firearms being reported as stolen or lost continues to increase. According to the South African Minister for Safety and Security an estimated 30,000 stolen licensed firearms enter the illegal market annually. 12

Loss of firearms by Security Forces

Another internal source of illegal weapons "is the loss of firearms suffered by the Security forces". It has been reported that an estimated 8,500 weapons are stolen or lost annually from the South African Police and the South African Defence Force. The former homeland and the TBVC states security forces have accounted for considerable losses of weapons-e.g. in a 1995 stock take-over of the former Transkei police, 2,129 (38 per cent) of the 5,634 weapons meant to be under control could not be accounted for. There is need to tighten controls over state provided weapons and armouries, particularly if one considers the manner in which some of these weapons were lost or stolen.

Arms Industry: a crucial source of supply

South Africa is the largest source of arms production in the region. Many of the small arms are domestically manufactured and available commercially in South Africa. There are numerous companies which manufacture small arms like Lyttleton Engineering Works (LIW), Musgrave (Rifles/shotguns), Pretoria Metal Pressings (small calibre ammunition), from the DENEL group and three independent companies-Republic Arms in Pretoria, Tressitu Ammunition and Aserma (part of the Reutec group). In the mid 1980's South Africa's armament industry was ranked the tenth largest in the world and as one of the leading third world arms producers. This distinction was achieved through the efforts of ARMSCOR, the state production and procurement organisation. ARMSCOR developed into one of the largest industrial organisations in the country with arms becoming one of the principal exports, ranking third after gold and coal. In 1992 ARMSCOR was reorganised into two parts: the DENEL group, which assumed all of ARMSCOR's manufacturing capabilities and facilities, and ARMSCOR, which remained the state procurement agency. According to a study, ARMSCOR, DENEL, and the 700 private companies comprising the local arms industry contributed nearly 1 per cent of GDP in 1994. While directly involved in the procurement of small arms used by security forces, ARMSCOR was not involved in the supply of small arms to the civilian market. All arms destined for the civilian market are regulated by the South African Police Service (SAPS) under the provisions of the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969. In terms of the Act the arms manufacturer will have to obtain permit for sale of weapons to civilians. 13

South African Arms Exports

Over the years South Africa has become a key player in the world's small arms market. On May 25, 1994 the United Nations lifted the arms embargo against South Africa allowing arms trade with South Africa. Immediately ARMSCOR announced its intention to increase South Africa's share in the global arms market from 0.4 per cent in 1994 to 2 per cent, a roughly 300 percent jump. 14 During the apartheid era arms sales were sanctioned to repressive governments as well as countries involved in civil war. South Africa supplied arms to both sides in Iran/Iraq war, the Pinochet Regime in Chile, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as well as Israel, Taiwan, UNITA and RENAMO. There is evidence that South Africa supplied arms to Rwanda and Croatia in defiance of the arms embargoes. The revelations in 1994 of sale of South African arms to Yemen, a prohibited destination led to the appointment of Cameron Commission by President Mandela to investigate South Africa's existing arms trade policies and decision-making processes. The revelations which emerged during the hearings of the Cameron Commisssion led to the appointment of a ministerial committee under the minister of Defence to look into South Africa's conventional Arms trade policies. As a result of the findings of Cameron Commisssion and Modise Commission, the cabinet anounced new policy and procedures for arms control which included four levels of control, the highest being the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC). The new policy outlined the principles wherein transfers and trade of arms was to be avoided,

Despite the attempts of the Cameron and Modise commissions to recast South Africa as a responsible arms seller, the government seems to have flouted its own guidelines on a number of occasions. For example, the NCACC approved the sale of small arms transfers to Rwanda in September 1996. The government appears to have been influenced by the arguments which stressed the macro economic benefits from the rise in arms sales. It is also argued " In Africa, South African weapon sales may expand South African influence across the continent." 16

Narcotics Linkage

South Africa has emerged as the major transhipment point for drugs and narcotics trafficking in the early 1990's after the transition to democracy ended international isolation. Cocaine from Latin America transits through to Europe, and heroin from South East Asia and South Asia passes through South Africa on to Europe and the United States. This problem is exacerbated by the Southern African countries (including South Africa) ability to cultivate, manufacture and process drugs like Mandrax and Cannabis (Marijuana). Interelatedness of criminal activity has become evident in South Africa. Because of the established smuggling networks in the Southern African region the same routes are often used for trafficking drugs as those for small arms. Increasingly there is reference to a "Third Force" involved in undermining South Africa's democratic government. To quote South Africa's Justice Minister Dullah Omar, "when at high levels there is participation in crimes of gun running, drug-trafficking, gangsterism-and when investigations into violence are undermined, evidence is prevented from coming to court and cases are derailed-I think there's sufficient evidence of Third Force Activity." 17 The Third Force apparently is the creation of the former apartheid regime. A recent study revealed that "key elements in the South African military, police, and foreign affairs department of the apartheid regime have created an organised crime syndicate, the commodities of which appear to be nuclear technology and components, arms and weapons, drugs, ivory and rhino horn." 18 Moreover, the disclosure of the General Pierre Steyn inquiry report, (set up by President De Klerk in 1991 to investigate the covert activities of the SADF) which suggests, at the very least, that prohibited narcotics have been a commodity in covert apartheid operations. In South Africa, it is believed that there are at least five extremist groups operating and it is known that they have established an underground network. Members of these groups have been arrested for possession of large amounts of firearms and attempting to break into ammunition stores at a military base, which indicates their interest in acquiring arms. While there is no apparent evidence, it is quite conceivable that these groups are linked to the Third Force and/or to international traffickers or criminal organisations.

Rise of Armed Vigilantes and Muslim Extremists

Police corruption of major proportions in Cape Town and the reported infiltration of drug dealers in SAPS ranks and government institutions has led to a rise of armed vigilantes like the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD). PAGAD is an organisation developed by people residing in the Rylands/Gatesville community in Cape Town in October 1995. Their motivation for organising the group was to root out gangsterism, drug dealing and the associated violence that was overwhelming the community. The police were seen as ineffective and disinterested in the community, which ultimately left the responsibility for policing to the people. Activities PAGAD engaged in to meet their objectives included mass demonstrations in front of the houses of alleged drug dealers, attempts to intimidate the dealers to leave the community, harassment of potential drug buyers, and high profile marches in public areas of Cape Town. It was during the demonstrations that the former Hard Livings gang leader Rashied Staggie was killed. These activities occasionally brought about confrontations with the SAPS. Initially the public reaction to this action was not unfavourable, however as time elapsed there were suspicions that PAGAD was acting as it did as a smokescreen for its own illegal activities. At the lower level, gangsters with their own agenda infiltrated it. Ideologically, a militant Islamic group, QIBLA Mass movement, penetrated its leadership. This group had condemned the political settlement of 1994 as an imperialist inspired plot against people. Later it set up the Islamic Unity Convention (IUC). Subsequently a number of other Muslim Extremists groups have emerged. One of these, Muslims against Global Oppression was allegedly responsible for bombing of the American owned Planet Hollywood restaurant. Rise of these groups has exacerbated the problem of small arms proliferation. 19

Political Violence

Though the incidence of political violence has gone down in recent years, there are two politically distinct groups which have acquired small arms on a large scale-The Afrikaner Resistance Movement representing the extreme right wing whites and the Inkatha Freedom Party which represents the Zulu's. Inkatha has always pushed for maximum federal devolution of power to Kwazulu/Natal; its proposals for a new provincial constitution include a provincial army and envisage virtually an independent state. Violent conflict between IFP supporters and the African National Congress (ANC) peaked during the 1990-1994 period but still continues. It has been revealed that the predominant weapon in Natal till 1994 was the "kwasha"-a home-made gun constructed from metal tubing, which fires conventional ammunition. From 1994 onwards the pattern changed and the IFP and ANC supporters now use mainly AK-47s, as well as G-3 assault rifles, R-5, R-4, and R-1 rifles. These new weapons obviously contributed to the current high level of violent conflict in Kwazulu/Natal.

Privatisation of Security

Criminal violence associated with the proliferation of small arms threatens the very fabric of the South African society. Since many people in South Africa feel that the central authority is not strong enough to protect them, more and more black and white citizens have come to rely on their own arms. Affluent citizens have the option of engaging security firms that advertise "Immediate Armed Response". The number of private security firms providing armed guards to companies and residences has multiplied in recent years. Apparently security is the fastest growing industry in South Africa after tourism.


Controlling Small Arms Proliferation

The South African government has embarked upon a variety of measures to curb the tide of light weapons proliferation. In South Africa at the national level, these efforts have included the progressive tightening of Arms and Ammunition Act of 1969 along with a more restrictive approach to granting of firearm licences. In addition there have been joint operations between the South African National Defence Force and South African Police services intended to combat rising crime and small arms proliferation. However these efforts achieved little success in relation to the magnitude of the problem in South Africa. 20 The failures at the national level have led to the realisation that since small arms proliferation is a phenomenon which exists at national, regional and international levels, it needs to be tackled at all three levels simultaneously. The importance of the regional dimension was reinforced by the fact that weapons were entering the country from Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Lesotho (See Map). Unilateral South African efforts at bolstering the border posts simply resulted in the diversion of weapons flows to other areas.

South Africa has also embarked on bilateral initiatives to deal with the problem. It has signed bilateral accords with Swaziland and Mozambique. Joint operations between the South African and Mozambican police forces, Operation Rachel I and II resulted in seizing of several large arms caches. As with the unilateral measures the bilateral operations undertaken by the South African and Mozambican police forces simply led to the changes in the routes. Hence there is a growing realisation that the real solution to the problem lies at the regional level.

For creating an effective regional mechanism for small arms control in Southern Africa it is essential to study the existing organisations and forums in the region and their potential for achieving integrated and coordinated solutions to the problem. These organisations are the Southern African Development Community (SADC), its Organ for Politics, Defence and Security, the Interstate Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC) and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO). Of these organisations, the ISDSC and the SARPCCO possess the potential to effectively deal with the scourge of small arms proliferation.


The ISDSC is a substructure of the SADC Organ. In essence it is a forum at which ministers responsible for defence, home affairs/public security meet to discuss issues relating to their individual and collective defence and common security issues. There is at present no specific agenda in the ISDSC to deal with small arms proliferation control. However the member states have resolved to share intelligence on such issues as motor vehicle thefts, drug trafficking, counterfeit-currency operations, illegal immigration, forged travel documents and smuggling of weapons. This is of immense importance in any regional effort to curb light weapons proliferation, given the growing evidence that those engaged in smuggling of weapons are also engaged in other illicit activity such as drug trafficking.


Due to the increasingly transnational nature of crime and crime syndicates, police commissioners of SADC member countries opted to pursue a regional approach to combat crime. This resulted in the establishment of SARPCCO an ad hoc arrangement in 1995 by police chiefs of Southern African countries. As with the ISDSC there is no formal structure to deal with small arms control, however the problem of illegal firearms trafficking in the region is addressed under the auspices of the Endangered Species and Firearms Desk. Most activities undertaken to contain the small arms proliferation in Southern Africa have occurred either bilaterally or under the umbrella of SARPCCO given the strong links between crime and illicit small arms trafficking.

It has been pointed out that although these organisations already exist and theoretically have a broad mandate that encompasses security issues in the region, not all of them have identified the proliferation of small arms as primary to their concerns. This is because the impact of the small arms on Southern African societies is not symmetric. Some countries are sources for weapons, others have weapons flowing through their region, often illegally, and therefore serve as transit countries and finally there are those who suffer the effects of the weapons on their own societies (end user or recipient countries). South Africa falls under this last category and is naturally more concerned about the situation. It is therefore the duty of countries like South Africa to convince their neighbours and regional partners to share the responsibility for controls. 21

Once these issues are cleared the Southern African countries need to embark on a collective programme to control the small arms trafficking and proliferation in the region. This could entail the following measures:

The potential for controlling the illicit small arms proliferation exists in South Africa and the Southern African region . This potential is manifest in the fact that most countries in the region genuinely desire peace and development, further, a sub regional structure already exists in the form of SADC. There are also other ad hoc organisations through which small arms issues could be coordinated. Nevertheless the regional solution to the problem of small arms proliferation is possible only if countries in the region not only act and meet as a region but also think as a region. The original SADCC structure of the 1980's had as an aim the reduction of member's external economic dependence, mainly on apartheid South Africa and to promote development. Once South Africa joined the group and with the resolution of most of the conflicts in the region, the organisation has maintained the trappings of a club of Nations, but lacks a uniform regional objective for action benefiting all its security and development needs. Only after there is an effort to think regionally would the danger of small arms proliferation sink in the psyches of the policy makers of these countries. At present the issue of small arms in most cases is at the bottom of the list of priorities among the national and regional security issues. Thus there is a need to heighten awareness of the role of small arms in crime and smuggling and to increase the priority given to small arms. The objectives of consolidating democracy, promoting economic development and diminishing crime in South Africa and most of the Southern African region will remain unrealised unless the issue of small arms proliferation is recognised as a fundamental threat to them.



Note *: Research Fellow, IDSA.  Back.

Note 1: The report of the UN Panel of Governmental Experts (A/52/298) defines small arms as those designed for personal use (revolvers and self loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, light machine guns).  Back.

Note 2: Most of the statistics are drawn from Glenn Oosthuysen, Small Arms Proliferation and Control in Southern Africa, (SAIIA, 1996) and through personal communication with Centre for the Analysis and Interpretation of Crime Information, SAPS, Pretoria.  Back.

Note 3: As stated in the 1996 Defence Review Position Paper.  Back.

Note 4: Oosthuysen, n. 2.  Back.

Note 5: See Oosthuysen, n. 2.  Back.

Note 6: Jacklyn Cock, "The Legacy of War: Proliferation of Light Weapons in Southern Africa" in Robert I Rotberg and Greg Mills ed. War and Peace in Southern Africa (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1998) pp.102-103.  Back.

Note 7: Ibid.  Back.

Note 8: Angolan News Agency, November 9, 1993.  Back.

Note 9: Peter Batchelor, "Disarmament, Small Arms and Intra State Conflict: the case of Southern Africa" in UNIDIR, Small Arms Management and Peacekeeping in Southern Africa (New York and Geneva, United Nations, 1996) pp.71-73.  Back.

Note 10: Oosthuysen, n. 2.  Back.

Note 11: Ibid.  Back.

Note 12: See Virgina Gamba, ed. Society Under Siege: licit responses to Illicit arms (Halfway House: ISS, 1998) p. 4.  Back.

Note 13: Oosthoysen, n. 2, p.8.  Back.

Note 14: Peter Batchelor and Susan Willet, Disarmament and Defence Industrial Adjustment in South Africa (Stockholm: SIPRI, 1998), p. 147.  Back.

Note 15: Ibid. pp. 126-130.  Back.

Note 16: P. Steyn, "Aligning South African defence industry with regional integration and security co- operation", Africa Security Review, vol.4, no.2 (1995), pp. 15-23.  Back.

Note 17: Tim Ryan " Drugs violence and governability in the future South Africa" ISS Occasional Paper no. 22, May 1997  Back.

Note 18: Ibid.  Back.

Note 19: William Gutteridge, "South Africa: Potential of Mbeki's Presidency" Conflict Studies, No. 319/320, June/July 1999, pp. 29-31.  Back.

Note 20: Hussein Solomon, "Controlling Light Weapons in Southern Africa" in Jeffery Boutwell and Michael T. Klare ed. Light Weapons and Civil Conflict (New York, Carnegie Commission on preventing deadly conflict, 1999) pp. 148.  Back.

Note 21: Virginia Gamba, "Small Arms Proliferation in Southern Africa: The Potential for Regional Control" African Security Review, vol.7, no.4, 1998, p.59.  Back.

Note 22: Sarah Meek, "Light Weapons and Early Warning: Initial steps" in Virginia Gamba ed., Society Under Siege (Halfway House: Institute for Security Studies, 1998) pp. 98-99.  Back.