The lack or withholding of intelligence from the wider defence sector resulted in at least seven “disasters or embarrassments” for Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula last year, a contributor to a National Assembly debate on crime and other intelligence maintains.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Mapisa-Nqakula’s portfolio, Kobus Marais, listed (in no particular order) the theft of weapons and ammunition from Tek Base in Centurion; “actual information” leading to the death of Collins Khosa; “the danger of and unlawfulness of abusing a SA Air Force (SAAF) Falcon 900 bizjet; “illegal and unauthorised smuggling” of Cuban medication; “the pace of dilapidation of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) capabilities in breach of the Constitution”; an “urgent need for increased and improved” border safeguarding capabilities and the “unacceptable destruction” of strategic communication capabilities at Silvermine as being disasters or embarrassments.
These, he said, were among reports over the past few years which put into question the quality and reliability of information gathered by Defence Intelligence (DI) and made available to the Commander-in-Chief (President Cyril Ramaphosa), Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and the Military Command Council (MCC).
Marais asked MPs at the debate what the role of DI was. “Were they focussed on the correct priorities and did relevant intelligence collection happen? Or did the Executive and defence leadership not pay attention to intelligence provided?”
He is of the opinion, and told Parliamentarians taking part in the debate, “a rogue intelligence agency with little or no accountability is a major threat to South African democracy”.
Turning to the Department of Defence (DoD) Special Defence Account (SDA), which faces termination, Marais said it was “abused for years with little or no consequence”.
“This is supposed to be the ring-fenced accumulated fund for acquisition and maintenance of strategic defence equipment. The SDA is now totally underfunded and cannot meet the minimum requirements to maintain our strategic defence equipment capabilities to the detriment of soldiers and citizens,” he said.
This is reinforced by the Auditor-General who “complains every year certain parts (of the DoD annual report and financial statements) are classified making it impossible to audit the SDA”.
The “draining of the SDA without consequences” means National Treasury budget cuts will continue with additional funding not a consideration.
Marais also criticised DI for not reporting, as one example, R4 billion lost to fruitless and wasteful expenditure, to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV).
As a parting shot and one aimed at government’s wider intelligence sector, Marais said the “war in Mozambique should indicate how important the national defence force and proper intelligence are for South Africa right now”.