SANDF not notified about Zuma's military co-operation with Saudi Arabia - DA

Johannesburg - The DA's Members of Parliament have suggested that the country's defence force was not notified of President Jacob Zuma's joint military co-operation with his Saudi Arabian counterpart.

In a statement, MP Kobus Marais said they would be writing to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, urging her to make a ministerial statement in terms of National Assembly Rule 106 to Parliament, addressing allegations that South Africa has partnered with Saudi Arabia.

One of the questions would be: "Why was the South African National Defence Force not notified, nor consulted for recommendations?"

When News24 first learnt of international reports stating that Zuma had unveiled a weapons factory in Saudi Arabia, it contacted the SANDF for clarification on the matter.

SANDF head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini said he knew nothing about the incident and referred all questions to the presidential spokesperson Bongani Majola.

He highlighted that the defence force had only been pulled in surrounding Zuma's travel plans for Saudi Arabia last month, but not about what was on his agenda.

After numerous attempts, however, Majola did not provide comment.

Last Friday, he referred News24 to a media release in which the Presidency simply stated that relations between South Africa and Saudi Arabia had received a significant boost following Zuma's visit.

He did not reply to News24's further questions on the report, nor to other reports that followed which contained pictures of Zuma unveiling a placard at a weapons factory.

On Friday, he clarified that the Presidency had not concealed the incident, but that he had been unable to answer questions as he had been on leave.

The report, published on the website Defence News, said South Africa's military equipment manufacturer Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) and Saudi Military Industries Corporation (Samic) had joined forces in the factory venture.

Denel had a 49% stake in the venture.

During Zuma's visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the Presidency shared pictures and updates on Zuma's activities on Twitter.

These included him being awarded the King Abdulazeez First Order which is given to heads of state and kings by Saudi Arabia.

But there was no mention of the weapons factory.

The Presidency gave no explanation on this.

"The secrecy with which President Zuma and Minister Mapisa-Nqakula visited Saudi Arabia is concerning and is starting to ring bells similar to that of the 1999 Arms Deal," Marais said.

"Appreciating the secrecy and large-scale corruption that characterised the 16-year arms deal debacle, it is critical that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula apprise Parliament of the details of this Saudi Arabian deal," he said.

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