Government progress doesn’t include the defence force


Embattled South African president Jacob Zuma had his spin doctoring machine in top gear this week issuing a more than three thousand six hundred word statement “taking stock” of progress made by government in the past year.

Issued by Dr Bongani Ngqulunga of The Presidency the statement is clear it is “not exhaustive” but the complete omission of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is not a good sign.

Apart from 165 words on benefits for military veterans, included as part of the statement’s focus on social transformation, and 90 relating to overall aspects of Operation Phakisa, there is no mention of what the country’s military is doing to contribute to national well-being and security.

Economic transformation and re-igniting growth and jobs; social transformation; governance and administration; safety and security and focus areas for the rest of the year are what the President’s chief spin doctor believes are achievements worth noting.

Not a word is said about the thin line of men and women in uniform who ceaselessly patrol the country’s landward borders preventing even more illegal immigrants entering and confiscating millions of rands worth of illegal goods that would otherwise be sold without any duties accruing to National Treasury. There’s also no mention of the close to one thousand five hundred soldiers doing the boots on the ground execution of government foreign policy as part on the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Dr Ngqulunga also overlooked last week’s visit to South Africa by Central African Republic (CAR) President Faustin-Archange Touadera who told the Commander-in-Chief of the South African military a commemorative statue would be erected in Bangui to honour the 15 South African soldiers who died there in a high-intensity firefight in 2013.

Zuma is not in a good space politically and spin doctoring is an accepted tool in the battle for political power. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to mention the SANDF. The South African military, for all its problems and faults, does many tasks well and recognition should be given.