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Armscor in search of Madiba magic
Armscor and the defence industry want to tap the Mandela magic abroad, and are putting pressure on the government to teach politicians the arms trade.

Arms industry sources say that President Nelson Mandela would, naturally, be a powerful salesman of South African armaments and technology in almost any country in the world. While senior foreign affairs officials say they wish he took more initiative in sweetening arms deals, sources within the Department of Trade and Industry believe that he has embraced this responsibility.

Mandela's office refused to answer any questions relating to his role. "We are not answering because we do not think the question is relevant to anybody," said his representative, Parks Mankahlana.

Armscor's chief executive, Ron Haywood, told the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence this week that Armscor was cutting back its representation abroad as political agreements involving government representatives became more important in securing international arms deals. "We are closing down some of our offices, which cost us about R1-million a year, because we need to move to a more focused international marketing strategy. We are not closing down in the Middle East and the Far East - in fact we are strengthening our representation there."

Armscor has offices in Moscow, Paris, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv and in Switzerland and Malaysia. The offices in Moscow, Paris and Switzerland are being downgraded and will have fewer staff.
Haywood said that "people are wanting more government-to-government agreements and we need a stronger and more co-ordinated marketing effort. As a result, Armscor, the secetariat of defence, the South African National Defence Force and the defence industry are evaluating ways and means to do this."

Haywood heads a task force, appointed by Defence Minister Joe Modise, which met senior defence force and industry representatives on Friday to plan international marketing strategies.
Modise is reported to have visited Saudi Arabia this month to promote a R7-billion arms deal with Denel after details of it were disclosed in the South African media.

The defence industry argues that the dwindling defence budget has made it imperative for South Africa to sell abroad to offset costs incurred producing armaments and technology for domestic use.

Julius Kriel, executive director of the Association of the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries, said international foreign relations played a crucial role in final decisions on arms deals.

"There is no better marketer than our Minister of Defence," he said.

"The defence force says the industry must find markets internationally. We are arguing that government should be giving us support. We are not wanting financial support, but co-ordinated political support from government.

"Other countries use prime ministers, presidents and ambassadors to nudge deals at the last stage.
"There is currently, for example, some reservations from countries interested in buying major systems from South Africa, that we will not be able to fulfil the guarantees to look after major systems for up to 35 to 40 years. Now that is where presidents and so forth with the stature and charisma can do the convincing. Often, for example, the British prime minister will fly to a country to give a deal the final nudge."