Palestine Cry: The passing of a global icon - Africa - Al Jazeera English
Palestine Cry: Paths to Disarmament
[End of excerpt]Disarmament, 1989-1994From 1987 to 1989, a confluence of factors made NBC programs less attractive to the regime. In 1987, the U.S. and European Community states (except for the UK) had imposed economic sanctions and had demanded that the regime accede to the NPT and end its secret weapons programs. In 1988, the U.S., Cuba, Angola and South Africa negotiated the withdrawal of Cuban troops in exchange for the independence of Namibia, and by the end of the year, a deal was reached. The Soviet and Cuban threat that had helped give rise to the NBC programs rapidly receded. As Botha realized there was a greatly reduced external threat, he agreed to enter into negotiations, with the ANC and Nelson Mandela. In 1988, President Botha changed military strategy, and the goal became minimal destruction, using cross border raids, and not defeat of the regime’s adversaries. However, the ANC/MK continued their guerrilla campaign, including the bombing of civilian targets. Among SADF leaders, there were growing concerns that the projected costs of NBC weapons and missile programs would crowd out plans to upgrade key conventional systems, such as bombers. In response to pressures and to diminishing threats, the National Party, including its new leader, F.W. de Klerk, accepted the inevitability of change, including nuclear disarmament.At the beginning of 1989, President Botha became ill with heart problems. The National Party leader, de Klerk, an “outsider” to the state security system (including the NBC weapons programs), replaced him on an interim basis. In April 1989, South African troops were confined to barracks in Namibia and were withdrawn by the end of the year. In June 1989, de Klerk visited Western Europe, where he was urged to adopt sweeping reforms. The U.S. continued to pressure the South African government and strongly urged de Klerk to sign the NPT.As the September 1989 elections approached, P.W. Botha announced that he would return to run for reelection as State President. De Klerk, as National Party leader and interim State President, was able to gain the National Party nomination as the presidential candidate and blocked Botha’s return. In September 1989, de Klerk was elected and inaugurated as State President and began his own five-year plan of ending apartheid. Part of his task included establishing civilian control over the security apparatus, especially the SSC “securocrats,” and reining in secret NBC weapons programs. To that end, de Klerk initiated a series of defense-related policy reviews and set up an AEC-ARMSCOR-SADF committee to review the nuclear program and assess the modalities of acceding to the NPT. Soon after inauguration, de Klerk gave J.W. de Villiers, AEC head, and his deputy, Waldo Stumpf, the following ultimatum: “I have one vision in my term of office. I want to make this country once again a respected member of the international community and we’ll have to turn around the politics and we’ll have to terminate this program, turn it around and accede to the NPT.” In addition, South African officials were being forced by the U.S. to take a stand on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in time for the June 1990 NPT review conference.Quickly, de Klerk released Walter Sisulu and other top ANC prisoners and brought talks with Nelson Mandela to their climax. In November 1989, the nuclear review committee recommended ending the nuclear weapons program and joining the NPT. De Klerk and his cabinet agreed and ordered dismantlement to commence. South Africa began the process of unilaterally dismantling six bombs and the components for a seventh bomb, and destroying much of the documentation associated with nuclear weapons programs. The government also began shutting down or converting a number of research laboratories, storage and test facilities.A group of ARMSCOR and AEC officials were assigned to develop a timetable for the dismantlement of the bombs, signing the NPT, and concluding a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The de Klerk government wanted all facilities used for manufacturing of nuclear devices to be decontaminated, all nuclear material melted and stored, equipment removed, technical drawings destroyed, and facilities mothballed or converted to commercial use before concluding an agreement. The working group reported that they would need about 18 months to fully dismantle the country’s nuclear capability. De Klerk approved the plan and assigned the task jointly to ARMSCOR and AEC. An independent auditor directly responsible to de Klerk was charged with overseeing the dismantling program and ensuring that the HEU was removed from ARMSCOR’s custody and returned to AEC.In January 1990, the U.S., backed by UK and Israel, issued a “hostile nation warning” to the de Klerk government. The warning demanded that South Africa end the nuclear weapons program immediately or face hostile actions. With the prospect of the ANC taking power, the U.S., the UK and Israel did not want to see the program’s assets or secrets being sold by an ANC government to adversaries in the Middle East or elsewhere. The U.S. government was alarmed by the prospect of a majority rule government, maintaining friendly relations with Qadhafi and Castro and giving them access to nuclear weapons. In response to the warning, the de Klerk regime informed the U.S., UK and Israel that it was dismantling the nuclear weapons program and that it hoped that the elimination of the bomb program would result in improved relations.Disarmament began in February 1990, the same month that de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, PAC, and South African Communist Party and released Mandela. The Y-plant ceased operation, the manufacturing facility was decontaminated, and plans were made to covert it to civilian production. All the hardware and design information was destroyed. The government appointed a noted scientist, to serve as an independent auditor to make certain that every gram of nuclear material was accounted for and that the hardware and data was destroyed. The two test shafts at the Vastrap test range were sealed off and the site was abandoned. The nuclear material was removed from the devices, recast in a form unsuitable for nuclear devices and stored according to internationally accepted standards. At a later date, the shafts were back-filled with sand and concrete.As a precursor to signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, South Africa invited International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in for on-site inspections. During a series of visits, the South African government permitted IAEA personnel unprecedented access for their inspections of highly enriched uranium (HEU) facilities and weapon production sites. South Africa and the IAEA established important new precedents for the future by working out explicit procedures and policy guidelines for these on-site IAEA inspections and safeguard procedures at nuclear enrichment facilities.Between July 1990 and July 1991, the six completed nuclear devices and components of the seventh were dismantled. De Klerk allegedly ordered the shut down of the intermediate missile program. On 10 July 1991, South Africa acceded to the NPT and signed a Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement with IAEA within seven weeks. The bomb dismantling process was officially completed when the last HEU was returned to the AEC in September 1991. In October, South Africa submitted its initial inventory of nuclear materials and facilities to the IAEA. The first verification team from IAEA arrived in November 1991. These actions allowed South Africa to take a seat on the General Conference of the IAEA. However, de Klerk delayed informing the public and the ANC, especially, until March 1993.In 1992, the de Klerk government considered options for eliminating the HEU stockpile and for terminating advanced weapons research and development projects. Defense budget cuts led to retrenchment of workers and the restructuring of ARMSCOR, as key components were spun-off as entities within the Denel group. The de Klerk government offered to sell the entire stock of HEU stockpile to the Bush administration. The ANC lobbied hard to keep the HEU stockpile in country and postpone a decision until after a transitional government was in place. The issue threatened to spillover into the multiparty conference on political transition, until the de Klerk regime to leave the distribution of the HEU stockpile until after the election. Renewed overtures by the Clinton administration to revive a straight U.S. purchase of the HEU stockpile were reportedly turned down.In late 1992, the ANC intensified efforts to uncover the nuclear weapons program and charged that the government might have hidden weapon-grade material from the IAEA. The delays in making a public disclosure about the bomb program fueled suspicions about the regime’s secret projects and covert R&D programs. In early 1991, the U.S. launched investigations into the regime’s illegal procurement operations and pressured the regime to discontinue ongoing missile programs. Given the turbulence of the times and revelations in the Steyn Report about SADF secret projects, President de Klerk decided to make his March 1993 announcement that South Africa had dismantled a nuclear bomb program and had joined the NPT in 1991. He stressed that South Africa had built nuclear bombs without outside assistance. Omitted from this speech were details about South Africa’s high-tech collaboration with Israel in developing and testing launch vehicles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.Reasons for dismantling the NW program. In explaining unilateral disarmament, de Klerk emphasized changes in the region. He noted the signing of the 1988 Tripartite Agreement leading to Namibian independence; the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops, the end of the Cold War; the break-up of the Soviet bloc; and a desire to have South Africa move away from confrontational relations with regional neighbors and the world community. De Klerk did not mention several other factors. His government did not like the idea of turning over access to nuclear weapons to the ANC. Also, the costs of subsidies to both the AEC to maintain the enrichment process and to ARMSCOR for the bomb and related launcher programs had become cost-prohibitive. The uranium enrichment process was far more expensive than expected. Only by adhering to the NPT could South Africa gain access to cheaper sources of enriched uranium. During the 1988-92 period the average production costs of operating the conversion enrichment, and fabrication (Beva) plants were between ten and twenty times the spot market price. The most inefficient expenditure among the processes was the enrichment plant. At its peak, the South African nuclear weapons program could produce only one or two weapons a year. Even at the end the total costs of the bomb program were only a tiny fraction of South Africa’s total defense budget. But to understand growing opposition to ARMSCOR’s nuclear programs one needs to look beyond direct costs and consider “opportunity costs” as well.After de Klerk’s speech, the IAEA was given access to all facilities previously used in nuclear programs. The only outstanding work for the IAEA in South Africa by 1994 was to determine the completeness of the declared inventory of less sensitive HEU in the larger semi-commercial enrichment plant. The IAEA used this information to recreate the Y-Plant’s operations on a day-to-day basis. After a two-year investigation, the IAEA reported that, “the amounts of HEU, which could have been produced by the pilot enrichment plant are consistent with the amounts declared in the initial report”. The IAEA estimates and South Africa’s declaration were within one significant quantity, or the equivalent of 25 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium. The AEC and the IAEC were confident that if significant quantities of HEU were hidden or exported secretly, the IAEA would have detected them.While the de Klerk government claimed ”full disclosure” on nuclear disarmament it was holding back details about missile systems that were capable of carrying nuclear or CB warheads. Just before the handover of power to the ANC in 1994, de Klerk agreed to close down the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) and not develop a South African space program. The policy reversal was the result of behind-the scenes bilateral and multilateral diplomatic meetings led by representatives of the U.S. The shutdown reflected the economic imperatives of a marketplace saturated with commercial launch vehicles.
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Palestine Cry: Triad (8 articles - scroll back through)