Re-appointed defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is well on the way to becoming the longest serving minister in this post since 1994.
She currently has just on seven years “service” as the most senior civilian in the national defence apparatus – two short of the nine years Mosiuoa Lekota put in before he left the ruling ANC to form his own political party.
Mapisa-Nqakula retains her Cabinet position despite having been listed at number 34 on the ruling ANC election list. That put her out of “official” contention for a Cabinet position and she was still included in Ramaphosa’s planning which saw the number of ministers cut to 28 from 36.
Others who filled the defence portfolio in Cabinet since democracy are the late Joe Modise (May 1994 to June 1999), Lekota (June 1999 to September 2008), Charles Nqakula (September 2008 to April 2009) and Lindiwe Sisulu (April 2009 to June 2012).
While she was re-appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he announced a new, slightly streamlined Cabinet on Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula will have a new person in the deputy ministerial seat previously occupied by Kebby Maphatsoe. That position will now be filled by Thabang Makwetla who previously served as deputy defence and military veterans minister from May 2009 to May 2014 before being moved to the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services as deputy minister.
During her time to date as Defence and Military Veterans Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has overseen implementation of milestone one of the Defence Review. She has also championed the position of women in the military and has come out strongly on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
At last year’s annual SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Women’s Day parade she said the national defence force suffered reputational damage as a result of negative reports and in particular by the UN on SEA incidents allegedly committed by deployed SANDF members.
In South Africa, the Minister said the national defence force made headlines when two MSD (military skills development) soldiers allegedly raped a fellow student on course.
“I emphasise that SEA constitutes serious misconduct. The UN expects all peacekeeping personnel will adhere to the highest standards of behaviour and conduct themselves in a professional and disciplined manner at all times. You will respect local laws, customs and practices; treat host country inhabitants with respect and act with impartiality, integrity and tact,” Mapisa-Nqakula told the parade at AFB Zwartkop.
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman welcomed Mapisa-Nqakula’s retention saying “it provides continuity over a period during which many senior personnel are set to retire, without which there would have been a year or more of stasis while successors are briefed in and settle into their posts. This would have been extremely damaging at a time when the defence force – and the defence industry – must deal with potentially crippling funding cuts”.