LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.

 
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Arms bazaar

In your article 'The arms bazaar reopens for business' by Dexter Jerome-Smith, (African Business, February 1998), you mention the delivery of 54 Leopard 1A2 tanks to Botswana. These tanks were to be sold by the Netherlands army.

This surprises me. As far as we know here the delivery of these tanks was cancelled, because the Germans, who produced them were against delivery.

Do you have any further information? Please let me know. The issue is a hot item here in the Netherlands.

Stan Termeer

Editor-in-chief, Onze Wereld magazine

Amsterdam, Holland.

African Business' correspondent Dexter Jerome-Smith replies:

Thank you for your inquiry. I have now spoken to a Dutch army spokesman and industry sources. You are correct that the sale of the Leopard 1 MBTs to Botswana was blocked by Germany and was cancelled as a consequence last year. I apologise for this inaccuracy.

I do make an effort to double-check even matters of passing reference in my articles. From the 1996/97 issue of The Military Balance I was aware that Germany had tried to stop the sale; but the comment therein implied this might not be enough in itself to achieve that aim; page 238 contains this passage: 'Botswana embarked on an ambitious arms-procurement programme in 1995 and 1996 by ordering main battle tanks (Leopard is), combat aircraft (F-5s) and anti-tank guided missiles. It is difficult to see the justification for these acquisitions, and whether all these orders will be completed remains to be seen as, for example, Germany has tried to block the delivery of Leopard tanks from the Netherlands.'

As I had specially checked more than a year back through back issues of the weekly Defense News and also the current affairs digest, Kessings Archives regarding this and other issues, and had not found any reference to a cancellation, I assumed -- wrongly -- that (as in law) "silence is assent."

What I have now found is this. The tank part of a deal for surplus Dutch army equipment to be sold to Botswana was cancelled last year. The tanks are still in Holland under the care of the Dutch army but are no longer in service, and the Dutch MOD is still looking to sell them.

Other parts of the Dutch army/Botswanan deal -- which industry sources estimated was worth in total $14m (including the Leo 1s) -- namely the supply of DAF trucks and Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons, did go through.

The dropping of the Leopard 1s from the order was due to a judgement that these tanks would...

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