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Country Reports
SOUTH AFRICA , Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: South Africa served as co-chair of the Standing Committee of Experts on the General Status and Operation of the Convention. It continued to play an important role in promoting universalization and effective implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. South Africa is emerging as a leader in the field of mine detection and mine clearance equipment and technology.

Mine Ban Policy

South Africa was the third country to sign the Mine Ban Treaty on the 3 December 1997. The National Assembly ratified the treaty on the 5 May 1998, and the National Council of Provinces on the 11 May 1998. On the 26 June 1998, South Africa deposited its instrument of ratification.

Under its Constitution, South Africa is bound by all international agreements it signs once both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces have approved them, at which time the international agreement becomes national law.[1] South Africa reports that it is now in the process of developing enabling implementation legislation.[2]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a “Landmine Coordinating Committee” in order to “formalize the earlier inter-departmental and NGO arrangement on the antipersonnel mine issue [and to ensure that] our joint efforts in co-ordination will assist in clarifying our objectives and factors that will be involved regarding funding and the organization of actions to be undertaken.”[3] The South Africa Campaign to Ban Landmines (SACBL) is now a permanent member of this Committee.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister, together with those of Austria, Canada, Mozambique and Norway, issued a joint statement on 1 March 1999 welcoming the entry into force of the treaty. The then Foreign Minister, the late Alfred Nzo, added that the treaty, “will significantly contribute to eradicating this scourge from the African continent, thereby assisting the socio-economic advancement of its people who have been so gravely afflicted by the use of these deadly weapons.”[4]

The government sent a delegation to the First Meeting of States Parties (FMSP) to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo, Mozambique, in May 1999. At that meeting it was made co-chair (with Canada) of the Standing Committee of Experts (SCE) on the General Status and Operation of the Convention. As well as co-chairing those meetings, it has been an active participant in the all of the various meetings of the other SCEs designed to foster the implementation of the treaty.

South Africa submitted its report on implementation measures to the UN as required under Article 7 on 1 September 1999. It has not submitted a second report to cover the period 1 September – 31 December 1999.

South Africa cosponsored and voted for the December 1999 UN General Assembly resolution on the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had with previous pro-ban UNGA resolutions.

South Africa is a state party to CCW and its protocols, including Amended Protocol II. It participated in the First Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II that was held in Geneva on 15-17 December 1999. It submitted its report as required under Article 13 prior to that Conference.

South Africa is a member of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) but does not believe that any useful purpose would be served by negotiating a transfer ban in the CD and thus having three international treaties dealing with landmines.

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

South Africa is a past producer and exporter of AP mines.[5] Today it no longer has an antipersonnel landmine production capability.[6] Antipersonnel landmine production stopped in 1995 and the assembly lines have been stripped.[7] In order to prevent any further production all moulds of plastic components have been recovered from outside suppliers.[8]

On 19 May 1997, former Minister of Defense, Mr. Joe Modise informed the OAU's First Continental Conference of African Experts on Landmines, in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, that the SANDF had 313,779 antipersonnel landmines of all kinds on its inventory. The total value of these mines amounted to approximately 47 million rand. The stocks included 238,746 AP mines (HE), 13,038 practice AP mines, 48,484 Jumping mines (J69); 2,059 practice Jumping mines (J69); and 11,434 foreign mines.

Destruction of these stocks was completed on 30 October 1997. The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) retained a limited number of AP mines for training of soldiers to deal with AP mine threats during peacekeeping operations, as well as for the development of effective demining equipment, demining research purposes and military/civilian education purposes.[9]

In 1997, the SANDF transferred 5,000 of its retained mines to Mechem for “research and training purposes.”[10] Mechem has used a total of 170 AP mines for demonstration and training purposes.[11] As of 1 September 1999, South Africa reported a live antipersonnel mine stockpile for training of 4,830. The South African National Defense Force has also retained 10,992 RPM2 “empty casings...for the training of members of the SANDF.”[12]

According to South Africa’s Article 7 report, between March 1999 and September 1999 a further total of 2,586 antipersonnel landmines were destroyed in controlled explosions by the SANDF. South Africa stated that 140 of those mines were “part of an illegal arms cache discovered in mid May 1999 in KwaZulu-Natal Province and immediately destroyed.”[13]

Operation Rachel

A total of 6,351 antipersonnel mines have been destroyed under a joint South African-Mozambican program called Operation Rachel. To combat illicit weapons trafficking being used to fuel crime, the two countries signed an agreement in 1995 allowing their police forces to undertake joint operations to find and destroy weapons within Mozambique left over from the war. South Africa is paying the bulk of the costs and is providing expertise on weapons and explosives disposal and destruction, which happen on site.[14]


The African National Congress (ANC) is the first and only liberation movement and now ruling party in government in the world to publicly apologize and express sincere regret for civilian deaths and injuries resulting from the use of antipersonnel landmines.

Through South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) a number of individuals on both sides of the conflict have applied for amnesty from prosecution for their use of landmines against political activists and innocent civilians. Individuals who survived landmine incidents were able to tell their stories and express their feelings about what happened to them and their families and how they felt about the international ban on antipersonnel landmines. While former servicemen admitted laying mines in neighboring countries during successive conflicts,[15] the former apartheid government and Defense Forces failed to take any responsibility for their use of AP mines, both within and outside of the country, and did not apologize for their use of the weapon.

Mine Action

During the FMSP Jackie Selebi, then Director-General of Foreign Affairs, announced: “To ensure that South Africa effectively manages the implementation of the Treaty obligations, a South Africa Mine Action Centre is in the process of being established under the auspices of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The objective of the Centre will be to act as a forum where compliance with international instruments on landmines will be monitored; to facilitate and identify appropriate mine action projects; and act as a clearinghouse for all mine action requests received by South Africa.”[16] As of July 2000, the center was still in the process of being established by the Landmines Coordinating Committee.

South Africa, in response to the problem of mines during the border wars, developed mine detection systems and a range of mine-protected vehicles that are reputed to be among the best in the world, including the Hyena, Hippo, Buffel, Casspir, Mamba and the Ribbok – a civilian farm vehicle.[17]

South Africa’s countermine philosophy is based on these principles: (1) Mine awareness training before, during, and after clearance operations; (2) Detection of mines with best equipment available; (3) Marking of detected mines; (4) The neutralization of mines; and (5) Demining auditing and the protection of deminers.[18]

It has never had the leading edge on humanitarian demining technology, but rather in military countermine technology.[19] However, according to Ronnie Kasrils, Deputy Minister of Defense from 1994-1999, now that apartheid has come to an end, "[W]e are grateful that a democratic South Africa can redress the wrongs of the past and make a major contribution by assisting countries with mine clearance."[20]

In 1999, a representative of the South African government attended the Bad Honeff 2 discussions in Germany; the Bad Honeff guidelines seek to place various aspects of mine action in the broader context of post-conflict reconstruction and development.

One of South Africa's pre-eminent companies in the area of mine action is Mechem Consultants, a specialized engineering division and subsidiary of the South African state-owned arms company, DENEL. Mechem has been involved in research and development for over twenty-eight years mainly in the detection of landmines, the protection against landmine explosions, and clearing of minefields. It is also linked to the past research, design and development of antipersonnel landmines for the (previous) South African government and military.

Mechem has in the past been contracted by UN agencies, government, and private electrical or road-building companies to conduct demining operations in various countries including Mozambique, Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, and Northern Iraq.

In addition to Mechem there are several other South African-based firms offering mine action services. In 1999, the Pretoria-based BRZ International, which has been linked to Saracen,[21] conducted mine clearance work in Angola, Croatia, Northern Iraq, Kosovo and Mozambique. It has also sent assessment missions to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.[22] The regional office of Carlos Gassmann Tecnologias De Vanguarda Aplicadas Lda (CGTVA) is also located in South Africa and has worked in Mozambique during 1999. TNT De-mining is one of the newest demining companies in South Africa and focuses mainly on the training of demining personnel at all levels. The Institute for Military Engineering Excellence in Southern Africa (IMEESA) is also located on the outskirts of Pretoria and at its center provides amongst other services, training in demining, mine awareness programs, management of demining projects and surveying.

Mine Action Research & Development and Technology Transfer

South Africa is emerging as a leader in the field of mine clearance equipment and believes that it possesses leading demining technology and expertise as well as medical capability and experience to assist mine victims. Mechem’s Vernon Joynt is credited with inventing armour able to withstand the Yugoslav TRMP-6 "tank-killer" mine, which had been a curse to UN peacekeepers in Bosnia. [23]

In February 1999, a US interagency team of humanitarian demining experts, including representatives of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, State Department, and US European Command, visited South Africa. The purpose of this visit was to familiarize the team with South African demining research and development (R&D), and operations; and to conduct meetings on possible areas of cooperation between the two countries. This initiative was an outgrowth of the US-South Africa Bi-national Commission (BNC), which is chaired by US Vice-President Al Gore and South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.[24] According to John Zavales, of the US Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance, “Given South Africa’s enlightened and progressive efforts at demining they can clearly make a significant contribution to Humanitarian Demining. The US trip was a useful first step in expanding cooperation in this area between the U.S. and South Africa, which hopefully will result in further combined efforts.”[25]

In 1998, Sweden acquired four South African Mamba mine protected armored personnel carriers for use in peacekeeping in the Western Sahara. The Mambas were produced by Reumech OMC to be used by Sweden’s United Nations troops.[26] In March 1999, the US Defense Department awarded Mechem a $494,000 contract to field test a mine sniffing electronic dog’s nose, which is being developed by the Pentagon’s research agency.[27] Mechem is to supply the Pentagon's Advanced Research Project Agency with its unique Mechem Explosive and Drug Detection System (MEDDS) and training and laboratory assistance. The system consists of concentrating explosive or drug vapors into sample tubes and presenting them to specially trained “sniffer”' dogs for identification.

In January 1999, South Africa and the Japanese government met at the first session of the new SA-Japan partnership forum designed to intensify contacts between Pretoria and Tokyo. Senior officials participating in the partnership forum agreed on closer cooperation in demining in southern Africa.[28] In May 1999, DENEL represented the SA defense industry on a high-profile SA trade delegation visit to Libya, to pursue a market for SA’s equipment for clearing landmines in Libya, where thousands of landmines planted during the Second World War pose a serious problem.[29] Also in 1999, the South African government exported mine protected vehicles to a private mining company for the protection of personnel in Angola.

Other key South African research and development companies include:

  • RSD, a division of Dorbyl Ltd, which has produced amongst other items, the Chubby Mobile Mine Detection and Clearing System;
  • Reutech Defense Industries (RDI) manufacturers of, for example, the MIDAS - handheld Mine Detector (PIMD) and the Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD2000);
  • Vickers OMC (the successor to Reumech OMC) which has produced a range of Mine Protected Vehicles including the RG-31 Nyala, the Mamba, the Kobra and the Casspir;
  • Armscor (marketing, sales as well as being the competent authority which conducts independent testing of all South Africa Mine Protected Vehicles); and,
  • The Center for Scientific Information and Research (CSIR) which is currently researching the possibility of a multi-sensor mine-detecting suite consisting of ground penetrating radar, infrared and metal detector sensors. Focusing on the Southern African region, and in particular, on countries like Angola and Mozambique, the project aims to develop technology to detect landmines, in particular antipersonnel mines with minimum or no metal content.

Survivor Assistance

The South African Constitution forbids discrimination based on an individual's disability.[30] Statistics on the number of South Africans living with disabilities resulting from landmine incidents are unavailable. However, research into disability generally estimates that between five and twelve percent of South Africans are moderately to severely disabled. Few services and opportunities exist for people with disabilities to participate equally in society. "The backlog of disability services is so long and the lack of services so acute that the economic advantage of providing rehabilitation services might not become apparent for a number of years."[31]

A research project on assistive devices found that in South Africa there are little or no policies and protocols to guide service development.[32] While there are a large number of Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPO) in South Africa, they are under-resourced in terms of funding and tend to be concentrated in urban areas.[33]

Being involved in the wars of liberation, South Africa has built up a unique experience of the medical aspects of landmine warfare. The South African National Defense Force's Medical Services (SAMS) believes that it can make a significant contribution to the medical support of mine clearing operations and the treatment of the victims of landmines.[34]

At least one South African Company, Tactical Medical Developments, undertakes research and develops products specifically designed for use by medical personnel in a military environment and for mine clearance operations.

South Africa provides a number of international humanitarian organizations, including the World Food Program, UNHCR, the OAU Refugee Contingency Fund, UNICEF, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with financial aid aimed mainly at the SADC region.

The ICRC has received a number of donations specifically for the rehabilitation of landmine survivors in the SADC region including R400,000 ($58,224) for year 1999/2000.


[1] The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, Chapter 14 231(4), (Wynberg: Constitutional Assembly, 1997).
[2] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, for the reporting period 1 March 1999-1 September 1999, submitted 1 September 1999.
[3] Letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs to Mr. Noel Stott, SACBL, 17 November 1997.
[4] “Anti-Personnel Mine Convention Enters Into Force,” Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Press Release No. 46, 1 March 1999.
[5] For information on past production and transfer, see Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 83-84; see also, Alex Vines, “Ethics and Other Considerations for De-mining in SADC,” paper delivered to an international conference, “Towards Cost-Effective De-mining: an Evaluation of Experiences and Techniques,” Johannesburg, April 1998; see also, Martin Rupiya, Landmines in Zimbabwe: a Deadly Legacy, (Harare: SAPES Books, 1998), p. 25.
[6] Article 7 Report, submitted 1 September 1999.
[7] Information Supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Directorate, 5 May 2000.
[8] Ibid.
[9] South African National Defense Force, “Fact Sheet: South Africa's Initiatives on Banning Anti-Personnel Landmines,” 8 September 1999; see also, Article 7 Report, Form D, 1 September 1999.
[10] Article 7 Report, Form D, 1 September 1999.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid., Form G.
[14] M. Chachiua, Arms Management Programme: Operation Rachel 1996 – 1999, (ISS: Halfway House, 1999) p. 40. V. Gamba, Small Arms in Southern Africa: reflections on the extent of the problem and its management potential, (ISS: Halfway House, 1999) p. 66.
[15] “Report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Cape Town: Juta, 1998. In its final report the TRC found that the ANC landmine campaign in the rural areas of the Northern and eastern Transvaal in the period 1985-1987 could not be condoned as it resulted in a gross violation of human rights. The Commission however also acknowledged the ANC for abandoning its landmine campaign in light of the high civilian casualty rate.
[16] Jackie Selebi, Director-General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Statement to the First Meeting of States Parties, Maputo, Mozambique, 3 May 1999.
[17] Vernon Joynt, Divisional General Manager, Mechem Consultants, “Written response to questions tabled by the South African Campaign to Ban Landmines,” 22 October 1997.
[18] Ronnie Kasrils, “South Africa and a Landmine Free Southern Africa,” address at conference “Towards Cost Effective Demining: An evaluation of experiences and techniques,” SAIIA, 22-23 April 1999.
[19] Center for Conflict Resolution, “Demining Workshop Report,” 16 March 1998.
[20] Ronnie Kasrils, “South Africa and a Landmine Free Southern Africa,” address to the conference “Towards Cost effective Demining, An evaluation of experiences and techniques,” SAIIA, 22 - 23 April 1999.
[21] Saracen was linked to the now disbanded private military company, Executive Outcomes.
[22] BRZ International Ltd, “Humanitarian Mine Clearance Profile,” Doc: BRZ302, Edition B, undated.
[23] “Landmines – everybody’s hidden enemy,” Eurostatry Show, Daily News, 25 June 1996.
[24] John G. Zavales, Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Department of Defense, "United States Interagency Team Visits South Africa," March 1999.
[25] Ibid.
[26] E-mail from Hendrik Ehlers to MGM people against landmines network, 8 November 1998.
[27] Simon Barber, “Mechem to test Pentagon’s $25 million dog,” Business Day, 4 March 1999.
[28] J. Stephen Laufer and Louise Cook, “Japanese firms still see SA as a trade base,” Business Day, 18 January 1999.
[29] “DENEL to visit Libya and ‘sell SA,’” Business Day, 24 May 1999.
[30] South African Constitution, Section 9.
[31] Margie Schneider, Disability Review (Braamfontein: C A S E, 1997).
[32] P. McLaren and S. Philpott, Assessing Assistive Devices Services: a review of eight provinces in South Africa (Braamfontein: C A S E, 1998). See also, M. Claassens and M. Schneider, Services Provided for disabled People by National and Provincial Government Departments (Braamfontein: C A S E, 1998).
[33] R. Morgan and D. Everrat, Audit of NGOs of and for People With Disabilities (Braamfontein: C A S E, 1998).
[34] G. M. Scharf, “The South African Medical Service's Doctrine, Expertise, Advice and Assistance on Mine Warfare and the Treatment of the Victims of Mine Warfare,” Paper Presented to the United Nations' International Meeting on Mine Clearance, Geneva, July 1995.