2015 must be the Year of the Defence Review


With 2015 now into its third week, South Africa should be back at work and work for the Defence Ministry in the early part of the year should focus exclusively on the Defence Review with the budget allocation for defence not too far behind.

The Defence Review was completed, under instruction from then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in time for tabling in Parliament in 2012. A Cabinet reshuffle saw her moved and replaced by Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, previously Correctional Services Minister. New Ministers are given some time to fit into their new portfolios and so it was with her but when she last year renamed the Defence Review as the 2014 edition in an apparent effort to make it more contemporary rather than two years old, eyebrows were raised.

The close to 500 page document prepared by Roelf Meyer and his Defence Review committee has been languishing in the bureaucratic wilderness of Parliament with only token mentions from the Defence and Military Veterans Portfolio Committee up to now.

Given the sorry state Meyer’s men and women have pointed out exists in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) surely the Minister and her advisors should have ensured it was front of mind not only at the Defence Ministry, but also among the rank and file of Parliament. After all, if people do not know about what is wrong – or right – in the national military machine how can they put their minds to eliminating the wrongs and adding to the rights?

As with by far the majority of issues facing the ruling party in the year South Africa reaches adulthood, money is one of the biggest hurdles to be overcome if the SANDF is to look anything like the defence force envisaged by the Defence Review Committee.

This means the bean counters in the Ministry must surely by now have done a lot of head scratching and number crunching to present a set of numbers for final consideration. This will ensure the Minister gives National Treasury a set of figures that not only show financial discipline (which Minister Nhlanhla Nene should appreciat) but also allow the force to train and deploy properly, pay its people adequately and make provision for the acquisition of new equipment.

Not an easy task, but one which has to be done competently and correctly if the SANDF is to fully live up expectations of protecting South Africa’s sovereignty, helping its people and being a working part of the country’s foreign policy machinery.
“Defence in a democracy” and “the pride of the nation” are just slogans unless backed by deeds. It’s a new year and an opportunity Mapisa-Nqakula shouldn’t miss.