Has the Defence Review become a forgotten document?


Just last week Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula again asserted the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was “a national asset” that should be protected.

She was reacting to rumours around South Africa’s acquisition of a radar reconnaissance satellite and urged that information to secure South Africa’s territorial integrity should not be compromised “simply” to gain political points.

Good and well, but the continuing lack of interest in and progress on the draft Defence Review will also have a major impact on the national asset Mapisa-Nqakula is the civilian head of.

A look at the schedule of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans for the current session of Parliament reinforces what appears to be a lack of urgency to move forward with the more than 400 page document researched and compiled by Roelf Meyer and his team.

The Review should set the tone for a 20-year-old democratic South Africa’s military. How it will look, what equipment it will have and what it will do, both internally and externally. Sadly this does not appear to carry any weight with the Portfolio Committee.

Granted the current session of Parliament will be a short one, given that the country will go to the polls sometime around the end of April or early in May, but surely time should have been set aside by the Portfolio Committee for the Defence Review.

Matters such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the progress made on finalising and implementing regulations as part of the Military Veterans Act, the state of SANDF facilities and a briefing on “key matters” that will require greater scrutiny in the next session of Parliament do impact on the greater military machine as well as contribute to social development. None of these can by any stretch of the imagination be deemed unimportant, but surely it’s time to start the Parliamentary wheels turning on the Defence Review.

If this doesn’t happen soon the “national asset” that the SANDF is seen as by the Minister will not be able to execute the tasks allotted to it. These range from continental peacekeeping and peace support missions in support of foreign policy, to border protection and latterly even humanitarian assistance necessitated by poor local government management.