SA Weapons are killing Yemen's people, ask Pravin Gordhan to stop selling part of Denel to Saudi Arabia

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SA Weapons are killing Yemen's people, ask Pravin Gordhan to stop selling part of Denel to Saudi Arabia
SA Weapons are killing Yemen's people, ask Pravin Gordhan to stop selling part of Denel to Saudi Arabia
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*Update* Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has stopped the sale of Denel to the Saudis. [13]


The people of Yemen are experiencing a horrific war and South Africa is profiting from selling weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is escalating the conflict.

Saudi Arabia is pressuring South Africa’s government into selling the state owned weapons manufacturer Denel by using its financial crisis and telling the media they are interested in the sale [1]. Many Denel employees and board members are against the sale. ”SAMI can come and sit with us for discussions but can’t bully their way into Denel. There is an impression created that Denel is for sale, but that is not the truth; there is no way we can sell our national asset. The board must be properly informed if there is any transaction that is proposed.” - a source tells the Mail and Guardian. [2]

If this purchase goes ahead, the Saudi government would have greater access to South African weapons.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE need foreign arms to continue their war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and are South Africa’s largest buyers of weapons and military technology. [3] From Seeker 2 drones [4], to mortar shells used to bomb fish markets, killing 26 civilians and wounding 50 [5], to G6 howitzer artillery on the battlefield [6], Denel weapons have been used by the Saudi led coalition indiscriminately.

Foreign Aid groups, like Doctors Without Borders, involved in relief efforts in the region have also been targets of the Saudi-led coalition with multiple air-strikes on their hospitals and medical facilities. [7]

The war in Yemen is destroying the country and has thrown 13 million people into famine, the world’s worst famine in 100 years [8]. A further 10 000 have died and 200 000 displaced and turned into refugees [9], with the UN saying these may be conservative estimates.

There is no doubt this war is a humxnitarian* crisis and is being escalated by the South African government with South African weapons.

The International Relations and Cooperations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu promised, “[South Africa] does not sell arms to any country that we have been advised by our officials within the security and international relations environment is violating human rights,”[10]. International organizations like the UN [11] and Amnesty international [12] have raised concerns about the humxn rights abuses in Yemen. But despite this and Cabinet’s commitments, the Denel board are considering selling part of Denel to the Saudi-led coalition anyway. South Africa selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is also breaking the Conventional Arms Control Act, which prevents the exporting of weapons to governments with a record of humxn rights abuses.

The South African government has shown they’d like to sell the financially struggling Denel. If Saudi Arabia are allowed to purchase Denel, even more South African weapons could be used to kill and displace the Yemeni people. But, we can change this.

We must hold our leaders accountable for breaking their promises and breaking South African law. Pravin Gordhan must use his power as Public Enterprises Minister and management responsibility over Denel to stop the sale of the company to any Middle-Eastern country.   

If it wasn’t for staff and board members speaking out, the company may have been sold already. If enough of us come together, we can shine a spotlight on the Denel sale and selling of weapons. We can expose our government for breaking it’s own promises by profiting from human rights abuse. We have to act quickly, lives are lost every day in Yemen and Saudi Arabia is using the financial situation at Denel to quickly push this deal through.

Dear Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan,

South African weapons are being used by Saudi Arabia to bomb fishing villages and kill thousands of Yemeni people. If the war continues, 13 million Yemeni people will be thrown into the world’s worst famine in 100 years. You have an opportunity now to stop the Saudi Arabian government from purchasing Denel and limit the flow of weapons into Yemen.

We call on you to stand by the commitments to stand against humxn rights abuses, made by the Defense and International Relations Ministers, and obey the law and Conventional Arms Control Act by using your power to stop the sale of Denel to Saudi Arabia and any other Middle-Eastern country.


[1] Saudi Arabia in talks over equity stake in Denel, Reuters October 2018

[2] Denel lands deep in Gulf crisis, Matuma Letsoalo, Thanduxolo Jika, Sabelo Skiti, Khadija Patel for Mail & Guardian October 2018

[3] South Africa must end illegal arms sales, Zeenat Adam for IOL October 2018

[4] Seeker II UAV shot down in Yemen, defenceWeb July 2015

[5] Saudi-led coalition says Houthi behind killing of civilians in Hodeidah, Yemen, Marwa Rashad, Aziz El Yakoubi and Ali Abdelaty for Reuters August 2018


[7] Doctors Without Borders hospital hit by rocket in Yemen, Al Jazeera January 2016

[8] Yemen on brink of 'world's worst famine in 100 years' if war continues, Hannah Summers for The Guardian October 2018

[9] Yemen close to famine after port offensive, aid groups warn, Thomas Reuters Foundation July 2018

[10] South Africa must end illegal arms sales, Zeenat Adam for IOL October 2018

[11] Yemen: An “entirely man-made catastrophe” – UN human rights report urges international investigation, United Nations Human Rights September 2017

[12] Yemen 2017/2018, Amnesty International


*A more progressive spelling of ‘human’ to show that womxn, trans and queer people are not the extensions of men and are their own people.

Will you sign?

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has responded to our pressure and will not sell Denel to Saudi Arabia. But SA weapons are killing Yemen's people. If enough of us come together, Pravin Gordhan will have to limit the flow of SA weapons into Yemen.