President Jacob Zuma has appointed African National Congress blue-blood Lindiwe Sisulu Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs. Although consumed with housing for the last five years and with intelligence matters before that, Sisulu is not entirely a stranger, having served on the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and having received military and intelligence training while with uMkhonto we Sizwe in the late 1970s.
One strategy professional says “she has proved her efficiency in her previous appointments and creates the impression of an achiever.”
On her relative lack of specialist departmental knowledge he adds: “A cabinet minister does not need to know a lot/be a specialist on the affairs of the department,” for that they have departmental and other advisors.
Retired Institute for Security Studies defence programme head Maj Gen (SAAF) Len le Roux says he briefly worked with Sisulu when she was on the JSCD when the Department of Defence was drafting the White Paper on Defence (1995/1996). “She was an active member of the committee and made meaningful contributions to the debate. She was pretty dynamic and showed good leadership qualities,” he calls. (It bears adding that Le roux played a major role in drafting that paper).
It may feel like old times then when she sits down behind the ministers` desk this afternoon as the much, much delayed Defence Update awaits her attention.
Cabinet is now appointed and the ministers should be at work, getting to grips with their departments. At the same time many a director general (DG) must be getting down to “house training” their ministers. Meanwhile Zuma`s job of appointing new faces is not done. President Thabo Mbeki reserved to himself the prerogative of appointing the DGs, who actually run government departments. There are a number of director generalships vacant, including that of the Department of Defence, where the DG, known as the Secretary for Defence, died in a car crash last year.
Several generals are also set to retire in coming months and it also lies in Zuma`s gift to promote and appoint their successors. There`s also the matter of a new police chief and DG at the National Intelligence Agency. We`ll be watching the appointments section of coming Cabinet statements closely…
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