Defence Minister questioned on topics ranging from mental health to vehicle purchases


In the first seven months of this year Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula provided written responses to 17 questions posed by Members of Parliament all from opposition parties.

Questions were from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with subjects ranging from employment/deployment of soldiers and other military personnel as part of the national state of disaster, the ongoing shortfall in the defence budget, job creation by and in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the provision of housing and other benefits for military veterans and acquisition of “luxury vehicles”.

The “luxury vehicle” question was asked by FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald. He wanted the Minister to elaborate on numbers, types and quantities “acquired” the past five financial years.

He was told “no luxury vehicles exceeding R600 000 in price were purchased by the SANDF in the 2104/15 and 2016/17 financial years. Twenty luxury vehicles were procured in the 2017-18 financial year, and two vehicles were procured in the 2018-19 financial year.”

Vehicles acquired were Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz for utilisation by Defence Foreign Relations, Defence Intelligence, the joint operations and logistics divisions as well as the SA Army and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).

Another question came from EFF representative Annacleta Siwisa. She is listed as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure (PDCWI) and asked Mapisa-Nqakula for the number of soldiers diagnosed as mentally ill and the number of suicides in the SANDF and treatment available.

“Mental disorder (mental health illness) per se manifests in a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. Defined main groups are mood disorders (depression or bipolar disorder), personality disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders (post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance abuse disorders. Given the complexity of the development and later manifestation of such disorders it is not possible to quantify numbers involved without deep analysis of patient history per incident.

“The suicide incidence is a problematic aspect. Suicides are classed as unnatural deaths and revert to the state coroner for final classification. The cause of death coding is vague with most capturing indicated as ‘death unspecified’.

“All members have access to the full spectrum of clinicians in managing mental disorders. The SAHMS does have management and defusing programmes in place to render care after traumatic incidents and after every deployment. As mental health presents, more frequently than not, differently in individual, each individual group programmes are not commonly used.

=“Given the complexity of the clinical environment under discussion it would be prudent to do a complete study to be able to answer the question,” the Ministerial reply read.