Defence Update


The latest redrafting of Defence Update 2025 is good and bad news. Some in the commentariat have decried the document as shabby and flawed as well as a poor update of the 1996 White Paper on Defence (WPD) and the 1998 Defence Review (DR).

This is disturbing.

Equally troubling is that we now face a further wait before getting to grips with South Africa`s future defence policy and its implications on force structure, budget and prime mission equipment.

The defence ministry says minister Charles Nqakula has imposed strict deadlines on the department and wants the new policy before Cabinet by July.

The WPD and DR are both fine documents, though it bears remembering that the WPD itself had flaws, necessitating the DR just two years later. The WPD put the defence force, the nations` previously wayward watchdog, on a short a short leash. The DR explored the force structure of a military placed in defensive posture at the strategic level.

The focus was keeping the new national defence force out of domestic politics and neighbouring capitals. While commendable, this left the SANDF without the legs it now needs to reach into Africa and support the nation`s foreign policy – or more prosaically, the peacekeepers deployed north of the Limpopo as a physical manifestation of government`s resolve to promote peace and security as a basis for economic development.      

South Africa deployed its first peacekeeper in September 1999 and its first major peacekeeping contingent, a reinforced battalion, to Burundi, in 2001. The WPD and DR did not anticipate that SA would deploy so many troops so soon. In effect that deployment, let alone later, simultaneous, deployments left SA`s defence policy obsolete.

An update has thus been due since at least 2001, which is why any further delay is unwelcome. Of course an unsound update would be even more undesirable.       

As an aside: The deadline suggests Nqakula expects to retain his portfolio under the new dispensation… Or is he presuming to prescribe to the next minister?



Jacob Zuma is South Africa`s president-elect and the next Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force. He will assume the office on Saturday, May 9. Our sincere congratulations.

Nqakula will remain defence minister until May 9 when the Chief Justice will swear in all duly elected Members of Parliament and Zuma announces his Cabinet. We will then definitively know who has what portfolio… As Aubrey Matshiqi put it so eloquently, guessing only makes one look foolish.


Speaking of egg-on-face: The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which Zuma leads, has pulled a proverbial rabbit out of the hat. When former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and ex Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa launched the Congress of the People (Cope) political party some predicted the ANC`s Parliamentary majority could fall as low as 50%.

As late as this week pundits put its majority at between 60 and 65%. It exceeded that expectation, bagging 67% of the vote – based on figures available at 8am this morning. The Democratic Alliance (DA) came in second with about 17% of the vote and Cope got just shy of 8%. This provisionally translates into 265 out of 400 seats for the ANC in the National Assembly, 66 for the DA and 30 for Cope.     


Wednesday`s election is being hailed for its high voter turnout, arguably the highest since 1994, with 23 million South Africans registering to vote. But only about half of them actually voted (about 13 million). The total population is about 48 million with around 20% of that number (9.6 million) under 18 an ineligible to vote on account of age, leaving a potential voters pool of about 38 million. So about 10 million did not bother to vote this week and 15 million more did not care to register. Thus, statistically, at least three out of every four people you see around you opted out of helping the other quarter deciding the political, economical and ecological future of this country for the next five years. Scary thought.              

Let`s see if we can do better in the 2011 local government elections.

As an aside: It will also behove triumphalist members of the ruling party to remember in the meantime that it only received two-thirds of the vote from one quarter of the population.


It will probably take a week or two after May 9 for the new Parliament to get itself in order and to constitute new oversight committees, elect chairs and determine an agenda for the remainder of the government year.      


Congratulations also to all newly elected and re-elected MPs. There is much to be done…


A number of industry players have told defenceWeb they have an urgent need for a defence-specific careers portal where they can post vacancies as well as search for suitable candidates.

Our stable-mate in the ITWeb Group, careerWeb, has a long track record of success in this field and will shortly have a presence on defenceWeb to satisfy this industry need.


Watch this space…


Monday is Freedom Day in South Africa, the public holiday marking the day all South Africans went to the polls in 1994 and ushered in the current Constitutional dispensation. As such it is similar to the US Independence Day. With your permission defenceWeb will take a break and resume publishing on Tuesday. If you are in SA, here`s wishing you a good long-weekend.