Heads must roll and not only for Cuban drug acquisition

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Grounding aircraft, especially super sophisticated fighter jets, because maintenance and service contracts apparently weren’t timeously renewed, is nothing but dereliction of duty.

SA Air Force (SAAF) personnel involved, whether in uniform or Public Service Act employees, must face disciplinary action. For those in uniform the option of courts martial with attendant dishonourable discharge and loss of pension should be given serious consideration. Similarly, Armscor employees tasked with ensuring Gripen fighter jets are airworthy must also face the music with suitable – stiff – penalties imposed.

Department of Defence (DoD) spin doctor supreme Siphiwe Dlamini, when making the “Gripens grounded” announcement last week, made sure to include the by-now ridiculously overworked claim of funding shortages as a contributing factor.

This refrain has worn extremely thin over the years and National Treasury is not going to change a Scrooge-like approach to funding the South African military machine, if it can still be called that!

The sorry saga of multi-million Rand aircraft being hangar queens at AFB Makhado is not alone in showing management defects in the public defence sector. The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) headed by Minister Thandi Modise, Armscor and Denel can loosely be said to be government’s defence “arm”.

The longest running non-performance and financial disaster for the SANDF and the DoDMV has to be what isn’t happening at 1 Military Hospital. A repair and maintenance programme (RAMP) theoretically underway since 2005 has only recently shown some results. This after a private sector total facilities management (TFM) contract, with Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) involved, and the Development Bank of SA (DBSA) coming aboard as a partner.

Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) is on record as saying what is – and isn’t – happening at the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) flagship is “completely unacceptable”. There’s talk of calling now retired SANDF chief Solly Shoke to give his version of the debacle to the JSCD.

Disaster number three for government’s military has to be the acquisition of a non-registered Cuban drug apparently as a prophylactic against COVID-19. Rules were either broken or ignored, the medication never made to it dispensing with indications large amounts of the drug have to be destroyed, resulting in millions of Rand wasted.

Minister Modise is on record as saying “heads will roll” for the Cuban drug acquisition.

She has to follow through if she, in any way, hopes to regain lost trust in the SANDF and her ministry. This assertion has to be applied to those responsible for grounding the Gripens and emasculating the premier military medical health facility in the country as well. These bungles have not only cost billions they put South Africa’s national security at risk.