Arms dealer sues state for R1.2 bn over confiscated arms
A Pretoria arms dealer, who claims he is the victim of “criminal elements” in the defence force and intelligence services, has demanded R1bn in damages from the Minister of Defence.
Johan Erasmus, a director of New Generations Arms Manufacturers (NGAM), has instituted seven civil cases against two ministers, the chief of the defence force and a host of top army officers because he claims they are sabotaging his business.
In turn, army intelligence, the Hawks and, apparently, the State Security Agency (SSA) are investigating Erasmus.
In March this year, they confiscated a consignment of his imported weapons – alleging he harboured right wing sentiments and was close to the Boeremag treason gang.
Erasmus has sent a letter of demand to defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Secretary of Defence and the chief of the SANDF for R1.254 billion for potential losses. They have yet to respond.
He claims he was victimised and sabotaged by senior officers and barred from demonstrating his weapons at an infantry symposium which resulted in him missing out on orders for weapons.
“I have appointed two top senior advocates and my legal costs are R200,000 a week,” says Erasmus. “But I won’t rest until I’ve exposed these criminals in our armed forces.”
Erasmus is a former army company commander in Namibia and served for four years as an intelligence advisor to former Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko before entering the twilight world of arms dealing.
Erasmus and NGAM have secured agreements with arms manufacturers in Singapore, Bulgaria and the United States, making him the only SA dealer that can import their goods for the national defence force.
The company is fully accredited with Armscor and has supplied the arms manufacturer with ammunition and armoured vehicles.
Ngam has also supplied the African Union peacekeeping force with machine guns, rocket launchers and ammunition.
NGAM thought it had hit the jackpot when the SANDF wanted to import large quantities of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs). Erasmus said the order would be worth more than a billion rand over the next few years.
The world’s foremost RPG manufacturers are Bulgarian-based Arsenal Jsco and VMZ – and NGAM holds exclusive rights to sell their hardware to the SANDF until 2015.
“Special Forces needs RPG’s and they wanted Bulgarian ones, which are the best in the world,” says Erasmus, “They were forced to deal with us.”
In 2010, NGAM won a first Armscor tender to supply Special Forces unit with around R100m of Bulgarian-manufactured RPGs.
Erasmus claims that Armscor delayed the purchasing of the RPG’s for more than a year, which led to him incurring R38m in penalties. He is now seeking to recoup the penalty from the state.
He said he discovered that the army had gone behind his back and had attempted to deal directly with his Bulgarian suppliers.
Meanwhile, armed with all the necessary documentations and end-user certificates, Erasmus imported Gatling machine guns from the United States, gun grenades from Singapore and new generation RPGs from Bulgaria for a demonstration to Special Forces.
The weapons were stored at a Special Forces bunker at a military base at Wallmanstahl base outside of Pretoria.
In March this year, his consignment of weapons, valued at around R15m, was seized by the Hawks and the weapons were seized on the basis of concerns that they might be used by Boeremag forces attempting a coup d’état.
“This is ridiculous,” said Erasmus. “There is no more Boeremag. They’re all in prison. I have nothing to do with them.”
Erasmus obtained an interim order preventing Special Forces from disposing or using the weapons and, in court papers, claimed a senior Special Forces officer was behind the “sabotage” against him.
Erasmus has also applied for an interdict against the officer and has instituted legal proceedings against the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) for refusing to issue him with permits.
In a letter in June addressed to then defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Erasmus says Special Forces is run by a “corrupt cadre” and that there are “corrupt practices” in Special Forces and Armscor.
Erasmus has also taken his case to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and had a meeting with her legal advisor and furnished them with documentation.
Neither the Hawks, the SANDF nor the Defence ministry responded to requests for comment.
SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said the agency did not wish to comment on the matter.