When delivering her budget vote in the National Assembly late last month, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asked for Parliament’s support when it came to National Treasury giving the South African military more money to be able to properly do the work asked of it.
She was speaking specifically about the border safeguarding tasking Operation Corona, saying the required number of companies “must increase” from 15 to 22 to make South Africa’s borders more secure.
“This is impeded by continuous reductions in the defence budget. We need the support of Parliament to deal with this,” she told MPs.
By its very nature, defence is not a people-, voter- or elected official-friendly part of national expenditure where more – and louder – demands are placed on social services such as health and education with infrastructure and developmental projects also getting larger slices of the national fiscal pie. This is not confined to Parliament of post-1994 South Africa. The previous government, even with its militaristic and securocratic approach, had to put up with MPs who had limited, little and even no knowledge of matters military. The difference then, obviously, was the securocrats were the majority.
Surely the appeal by the Minister must open the door for people in her ministry, the Department of Defence and the SA National Defence Force to engage forthrightly with “elected” MPs. They should be given insight into the men and women in uniform and know there are four different arms of service – not just “the army” as the national defence force is often called. Also, and this example, comes from a retired SA Army officer, please tell – and show – MPs an R5 and a G5 so they know the difference!
But it appears the MP education option is not one that features on the priority list of the SANDF.
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, SANDF Director: Corporate Communication, told defenceWeb “Parliamentary questions are received periodically therefore the SANDF does not have permanent Parliamentary liaison structures”.
Siphiwe Dlamini, Head of Communication for the Department of Defence (DoD), had not responded to questions asked seven days before publication of this piece. defenceWeb asked him if the DoD has personnel in the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces and what their duties are.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s appeal to MPs for help will largely fall on deaf ears unless she takes it on herself to either educate them or deploy officers with the requisite knowledge to do so. If nothing is done, she cannot expect to be on the receiving end of more largesse from National Treasury, the establishment of an inter-departmental team where both the DoD and Treasury will take further her assertion that defence will no longer be seen “as any other government department”, notwithstanding.