South Africa

Arms Sold:

Additional Arms:
Kfir Fighter Jets, Litening, Educational Cyber Security Service Center, Fortify


Additional Companies:
Avnon Group, Gold N’ Links,

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South Africa


Israel has been an important supplier of arms and military technology for South Africa since 1977, when it refused to abide by the arms embargo on South Africa during the Apartheid. Since the year 2000 Israel arms export to South Africa includes mainly radar systems, aircraft pods, riot vehicles and cyber security services.

Israel – South Africa Relations

The first official visit of an Israeli prime minister since the end of apartheid happened in 2004, when Ehud Olmert met with South African president Thabo Mbeki.[1]South African President Mbeki Meets With Deputy PM Olmert

Regarding Israel and South African trade, the income from Israeli export to South Africa stood on $219m in 2018 with machinery, electronics, chemicals and metals being the main goods being exported.[2]South Africa Product Imports from Israel 2018

In April 2019 South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel following clashes between Israeli military forces and protesters in Gaza. The embassy in Israel, was downgraded to a liaison office and doesn’t have a political mandate, not trade mandate and development cooperation mandate.[3]Israel and South Africa: A ‘downgraded’ relationship?

Military Relations

Israel has been the most important supplier of arms and military technology to South Africa since the 1977 UN mandatory embargo. Israel truly began its role as a key international arms dealer in 1977 when it refused to abide by the arms embargo on South Africa.[4]Independence or Dependence? The Arms Industries in Israel, South Africa and Yugoslavia During the Cold War

Links have deepened in the 1980s, when Israeli military exports to South Africa have been increas­ing in the form of military technology and services while South Africa has apparently provided Israel with test sites for nuclear weapons and has directed investment toward Israel.[5]Independence or Dependence? The Arms Industries in Israel, South Africa and Yugoslavia During the Cold War

The largest deal was reportedly signed in the summer of 1988. Israel sold South Africa 60 Kfir combat planes that were no longer in use by the Israel Air Force. These were substantially upgraded and put to use by South Africa’s air force and renamed the Atlas Cheetah. The deal was worth $1.7 billion, an unprecedented sum. Israel joined the international sanctions in 1987 but announced that it would honor existing arms deals. The Kfir deal was therefore presented as an existing deal. In 1991, U.S. pressure forced Israel to halt deals with South Africa, and Yitzhak Shamir’s government was forced to sign a commitment not to export short and midrange missiles. Still, the United States didn’t interfere with the Kfir-Cheetah deal and the jets were made operative by South Africa’s air force.[6]How South Africa’s Apartheid Regime Saved Israel’s Defense Industry

Between 2000-2020 Israel delivered aircraft targeting pods, radars, anti-riot vehicles and cyber security technologies and training centers to South Africa.

In 2021 the Israeli company Avnon Group’s ISTAR acquired South Africa’s UAV manufacturer ALTI, that specializes in drones that take off and land vertically, for about $7.5 million.[7]Avnon Group strengthens position in drone market with $7.75 million acquisition of ALTI

Arms Fairs:

AAD – African Aerospace and Defence 2018: Bet Shemesh Engines

Usage of Israeli Arms

Litening III targeting pod – used by South African Air Force on JAS-39 (Saab JAS 39 Gripen) Combat aircraft.

EL/M-2208 air search radar – used by South African Navy on Saar 4.5 Warrior-class offshore patrol vessel, that Israeli exported to South Africa at 1974.

Water Cannons (by Beit Alfa Technologies) – 10 water cannons were used by South African Police (SAPS) to control “FeesMustFall” protests and other protests in 2015. They were procured in 2007.[8]Israeli firm supplies SAPS with cannons

Human Rights Violations

Despite South Africa’s strong constitutional protections for human rights, public confidence in the government’s willingness to tackle human rights violations, corruption and respect for the rule of law has eroded.

The government has failed to ensure that children with disabilities have access to a quality education. In 2018, almost 600,000 children with disabilities remained out of school.[9]HRW South Africa Events of 2018

Deadly systematic xenophobic violence against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants rised, partly driven by years of impunity for past attacks and failures in the criminal justice system that have left this vulnerable group exposed and unprotected.[10]Amnesty South Africa Report In 2019 violence by South Africans against foreign nationals erupted in different locations and occasions causing the death of more than 12 people. More than 200 foreign truck drivers were killed between 2018-2019 based on research by the Road Freight Association.[11]South Africa: Deadly Attacks on Foreign Truck Drivers No one has been convicted for the outbreaks of xenophobic violence as of December 2019.[12]HRW South Africa Events of 2019 Regarding police violence, the independent police investigative directorate (IPID) recorded 393 cases of deaths in police custody in its 2018-2019 report. 124 cases of rape by police officers as well as 270 cases of torture were also reported.[13]INDEPENDENT POLICE INVESTIGATIVE DIRECTORATE

Its commitment to human rights and international justice in its foreign policy practice remains in question.