First ever Parliamentary civil military relations colloquium

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In what appears to be a step toward greater proactivity Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) will next week host a colloquium on civil military relations (CMR).

As far as can be ascertained this is a first for the parliamentary oversight committee, one of two tasked with the job for the national military machine. KwaZulu-Natal ANC parliamentarian Cyril Xaba is PCDMV chair replacing Malusi Motimele, now Armscor deputy chair.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is tasked with delivering the keynote address at Tuesday’s colloquium. According to the draft programme she will give an executive perspective on CMR in South Africa.

The country’s top soldier – SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief General Solly Shoke – will give those attending “a military practitioner’s perspective” with the parliamentary perspective coming from National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise. Her experience as chair of both the PCDMV and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) from 1998 to 2004 makes her well-suited to both the civil and military sides up for discussion at the colloquium.

Modise will be joined by former defence and military veterans minister Mosiuoa Lekota, now an opposition MP and leader of COPE, and UDM leader former Transkei Defence Force general Bantu Holomisa for the panel discussion.

Stellenbosch University professor Lindy Heinecken will look at the widening gap between the civil and military components of South African society with another Stellenbosch academic set to examine the current state of CMR in the SANDF. This presentation will be done by Professor Abel Esterhuyse of the Faculty of Military Science.

The final colloquium session will see Dr Moses Khanyile of Masharps College speak on changing CMR in South Africa and Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg of the Parliamentary Research Unit providing an insight into the role of Parliament in shaping CMR locally.

The Parliamentary Communications Service has it that “Parliament plays a vital role in democratic control of the armed forces and civil military relations in society”.

“Legislative developments and effective parliamentary oversight of the armed forces depends on constitutional and legally defined powers of the legislature as well as the capacity to exercise those powers in an effective and meaningful way. The military leader, on the other hand, has an important role in one of the power structures in society and needs to demonstrate the requisite professionalism. These and other related issues will be highlighted during the colloquium to stress the importance of healthy relations between the legislature, civil society and the military. “

The colloquium aims to serve as a platform for discussions around CMR in South Africa, the role of Parliament in strengthening CMR and building partnerships between Parliament, departmental roleplayers, academics and other interested parties.