Defence Review work ahead for SANDF Chief


Now that the Defence Minister has made her public pronouncements on the Defence Review and the fact it still has to be tabled, debated and approved by Parliament should open a door for the country’s top soldier.

Given the general lack of knowledge that Parliamentarians, with a few exceptions, have of matters military it would be in the best interests of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) if the Chief, General Solly Shoke, started preparing forces for the Fifth Parliament of democratic South Africa.

While not knowing yet what the make-up of Parliament and the Cabinet will be until after the inauguration of the President on May 24, he should be proactive as regards the Defence Review.
defenceWeb’s humble suggestion to the country’s only full general would be to assemble a task team of officers, preferably full colonels and brigadier generals, from all four arms of service to engage (lobby would probably be a better word) with MPs starting round about June.

These men and women should obviously be professional soldiers of the highest calibre. Additionally they must be able to interact, without being overwhelmed, knowledgeably with MPs about the Defence Review and its implications for South Africa, the southern African region and the continent.

They must also have full understanding of the more than 400 page document produced by Roelf Meyer and his Defence Review committee members and tell elected representatives diplomatically and without ruffling personal feathers that South Africa must have a strong and capable defence force.

They will come up against arguments in favour of more spending on social services, education and others. They must not be swayed and could well use the example of a natural disaster to illustrate the necessity to have a capable and well-equipped defence force.
“If the SA Air Force cannot help in times of floods, as has happened before, because it has insufficient helicopters and not enough pilots and you know people threatened by flooding, how would you feel about cutting the defence budget,” could almost be a stock reply.

The need to plug the country’s porous borders from what has become almost an invasion of illegal immigrants and goods on which no tax or excise duty is paid is another good riposte to those wanting to emasculate the military even more.

And that’s just locally, what about regionally and continentally?

In short, they must be able to “sell” the SANDF to Parliamentarians so that, when the Defence Review is tabled in Parliament, those in the House will know what it’s about.

An effort of this nature could well be worth far more than the current advertising spend undertaken by the SANDF to let South Africans know it has been part and parcel of democracy since 1994.