When Dr Sam Gulube exits his office in the Armscor building at year-end it brings down the curtain for him on eight years as the senior civilian staff member in the Department of Defence (DoD).
The man, widely and affectionately called “SecDef”, is stepping down as Secretary for Defence and Military Veterans.
His strategic statement in the latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report for the 2018/19 financial year is a farewell one which he wrote is “an honour and privilege” to provide.
“It is incumbent on me to share the significant impact Defence has had on our country, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and the African continent over the last few years. As I bow out of the role that defined the biggest part of my life for almost a decade, I look back at some highlights that had a profound impact on me personally.
“I joined the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as medical doctor in the Military Health Service and served at 1 Military Hospital providing medical and surgical services to patients. This experience, coupled with my military background as a former member of Umkhonto we Sizwe during the struggle for the freedom of South Africa enabled me to rapidly grasp operational matters in the Defence Force.
“After a period away from Defence when I was part of the State Security Agency, I was appointed to the Ministerial Defence Review Committee under the chairmanship of Roelf Meyer in 2011. I was thus one of the team responsible for the second national policy review of Defence for the democratic Republic of South Africa. This work culminated in the Cabinet approved and Parliament endorsed South African Defence Review 2015, which provides the national policy construct for the short, medium and long-term defence development trajectory of South Africa.
“This was my first exposure to the Defence policy environment, which was to shape the next eight years of my life. During the final stages of development and approval of the Defence Review my role changed. I was appointed as Secretary for Defence and so began an unimaginably steep learning curve.
“As Head of Department and Accounting Officer for the Department I had the responsibility, not only to ensure governance and compliance to the regulatory framework and to ensure the Department of Defence was enabled to function, but also to play a pivotal role in Government business as a member of the Forum of South African Directors General. More particularly, our participation in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster and the International Co-operation, Trade and Security Cluster enabled meaningful contributions to the security and foreign policy domains of Government.
“In line with the Defence Review 2015 policy pronouncements and for the last four years, I focussed my efforts on the work required to ‘Arrest the Decline’ in the Department of Defence. Our plan consisted of ‘cost driven’ and ‘non-cost driven’ interventions. The downturn of the South African economy resulted in reduced funding to Defence, making it impossible to fund full implementation of the Defence Review as initially envisaged.
“Strategically this negates the approved level of defence ambition that can be pursued.
“In the absence of additional funding, we focussed on non-cost driven aspects wherein we paid particular attention to, inter alia, improving efficiency, organisational restructuring, and improvement of operational support systems. These deliverables have been embedded in the main Defence Programmes ensuring continued programmatic implementation. The implementation of the SA Defence Review 2015 remains work in progress and the DoD will continue to pursue this within the resources allocated to it by National Treasury.
“As part of these interventions, the procurement function was decentralised to various military units to optimise procurement throughout the country and enable Defence to spend locally, providing a catalyst to small, medium and micro-sized Enterprises and local economic growth. The downside of this has been a number of negative audit findings in the supply chain, mainly due to the lack of continuity and capacity of personnel in the procurement process.”
Gulube also makes mention of the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC), which has seen the establishment of the SA defence industry strategy, the Defence Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Sector Code and the Defence Industry Fund (DIF) to ensure participation from small, medium and micro-sized enterprises.