Defence Force Service Commission largely powerless – Parliamentary report


The South African military has had a permanent Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) since 2013 with a report prepared for Parliament indicating it “acquitted itself well of its legislative mandate, producing reports and making recommendations”.

An obstacle, pointed out in the report for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV), is implementation of its recommendations.

It does not have legislative or other powers to enforce implementation of its recommendations. In fact, it states ‘the DFSC is not able to provide an informed comment on the reason/s for non-implementation’ and ‘recommendations only legislating the function of the DFSC further supports the distorted image of the DFSC as a powerless structure held by some members of the SANDF’.

Five years ago the DFSC suggested in its annual report there is a need to review legislation empowering it so ensure decision making powers as related to implementation of recommendations are in place. This, the report states, will advance the Commission’s credibility.

“Of concern is that the DFSC is required to gazette findings and recommendations, but was instructed to hold back on these if it has financial implications and the ministers of Defence and Finance have not considered these recommendations. This is an issue that needs to be further clarified and a solution should be found to it, as it is peculiar findings and recommendations can be gazetted, but not implemented,” according to the report.

Supporting this is that three of 17 recommendations made in the final report of the interim DFSC (in 2013) have been implemented. They are finalising the founding act of the DFSC, establishment of the permanent commission and, what is only referred to as “the 2015 Defence Review”.

“Other recommendations, including those gazetted, were either partially or never implemented.”

The report concludes by stating the DFSC visits numerous military units and bases creating expectations the concerns soldiers raise will be addressed. If this does not happen “even years after DFSC visits it is likely to erode confidence in and the credibility of the Commission”.