1977.11.01: It’s hypocrisy — South Africa will get the guns (Socialist Worker)


Socialist Worker
November 1977

Carter, Young and the “Arms Embargo”
It’s hypocrisy — South Africa will get the guns

The Carter/Young promise of support for a six-month UN arms embargo against South Africa announced Oct. 27th is a farce.

The US claims it had a “voluntary” arms embargo on the white racist regime since 1963. However the US has vetoed proposed UN arms embargoes numerous times, most recently in 1975. Most important, however, is that there has never been a real American arms embargo on South Africa. Through a series of tricks, the US government has devised means to get arms to the racist regime.


The most obvious example of American support for the South African regime has been supplying military equipment while pretending that it’s not military at all.

An example of this is the possession by the South African military of at least seven C-130 military transport planes, shipped directly from the US to South Africa, supposedly as non­military equipment. The C-130 is a transport aircraft specially designed for the shipments of troops and military material. It was the mainstay of American military transport in Vietnam, where it was also used extensively as a gunship for point~blank “counterinsurgency.”

In addition, the US allows the sale of civilian Cessna and Piper Cub light aircraft which form the backbone of the South Afrìcan government’s “Air Commandos,” a component of the vast volunteer military forces designed to be used for reconnaissance in cooperation with ground forces in repressing black uprìsings.

One military expert put it this way — “Without these aircraft, the helicopter, Cessna and Dakota, problems of supplies and communications would be insurmountable. American police equipment is also termed “non­military” by the US government, and as a result, the South African police are equipped with some of the most advanced “crowd control” equipment in the world.

This equipment has played a key role in the murder of thousands of black South Africans in the past few years.

Most significantly, the US provides heavy military equipment to South Africa by selling licenses to Western European allies to produce military equipment, who in turn provide it directly to South Africa.

For example, the Ford Motor Company has licensed Oto Melara, a major Italian arms manufacturer, to produce a version of the M-113A1 armed personnel» carrier, which is then sold to South Africa.

Meanwhile, Bavia, a Portuguese firm, is producing the Commando personnel carrier under license from Cadillac Gage of Detroit. The Commandos, like other US weapons produced under license, were in the process of being delivered to South Africa earlier this year. No attempt has been made to stop them.


American arms reach South Africa through secret “transshipment,” which simply means addressing arms to one country which then secretly ships them to South Africa or Rhodesia. There is almost no way to keep track of such practices because of the tight security surrounding all military equipment.

The South African Air Force has 40 Lockheed Starfighter fighter/bombers provided by the US through the West German Air Force.

Israeli arms also are provided in massive amounts, and these are built with technology gained from the US through NATO, and other military arrangements.

It is because of all this that South African Defense Minister Botha could reply casually to Carter’s announcement of his support for a UN arms embargo on South Africa:


“We are self­-sufficient enough, without any great effort, to any non-conventìonal war against us, and with a special effort, we can sustain anything of a conventional nature they can throw against us, on a limited scale.”

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