Move of top SANDF education facilities questioned

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Once a favoured venue for government and ruling party meetings and briefings, the now closed St George Hotel in Irene is touted as the new home of two top SA National Defence Force (SANDF) education facilities.

The hotel, on the eastern side of Centurion adjacent to the R21 highway, gained notoriety last October when Defence and Military Veterans Minster Thandi Modise and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, were held hostage by an aggrieved group of veterans, calling themselves the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV).

The closure of the hotel and its conference centre was made public in February. IOL reported management saying operations would cease citing the impacts of COVID-19 and continuing power cuts as contributing factors.

Weekend reports, not responded to at the time of publishing by the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC), have it the sprawling complex will be the new home of both the SANDF Defence College and the SA War College.

With leasing costs in the region of R5 million a month raised – again not confirmed or denied by DCC – the proposed deal was slammed by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.

“At first glance there seem to be multiple irregularities with the lease contract which could be exploited by corrupt individuals looking to further fleece the State,” Marais said adding “a close eye” would be kept on progress – if any – with the deal.

“The SANDF cannot be allowed to decline further and used as a front for State capture and corruption.”

The Freedom Front Plus said it was “unacceptable” for the Saint George Hotel to be rented for training and the party will ask the Public Protector to investigate.

This training has always available at established premises, the Freedom Front Plus said, asking why existing facilities cannot be upgraded if unsuitable.

“There are numerous military bases in the country with more than enough facilities where training can be given to senior officers. The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans should provide immediate answers on the lease agreement.”

The Defence College is housed in premises in Thaba Tshwane, south of the Pretoria CBD. It is the premier education and training facility for senior officers in the SANDF and caters for other top officials in security related government posts via the Security and Defence Studies Programme (SDSP). This was the previous ENSP (Executive National Security Programme).

The SA War College is currently housed in what was a hotel three blocks north of Church Square in central Pretoria. The military moved into the premised some years ago when the then Department of Correctional Service indicated it no longer needed what was the Boulevard Hotel as a college to train personnel.

Among others, the War College presents the Joint Senior Command and Staff Programme (JSCSP) for all four SANDF services.