A firm offer of assistance to ensure best possible utilisation of South Africa’s military in the widest interests of all the country’s citizens, its sovereignty and security has been made to the new occupant of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) ministerial office suite.
The offer by Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military minister, was made to Thandi Modise four days after her move from the National Assembly to the Armscor building in Pretoria was announced by Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Congratulating Modise, Marais told defenceWeb she was “probably” the best candidate in Ramaphosa’s “circle of loyalists” adding he stood ready with assistance, help and support to use the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in “a non-partisan way in the best interests of all South Africans, be they at home or abroad”.
He ascribed his “cautious optimism” to Modise previously showing “empathy for challenges faced by the SANDF” and her attitude to those in uniform. Marais maintains if Modise uses experience gained during her term as National Assembly (NA) Speaker, including her preparedness to take “controversial decisions not necessarily in the best interest of her own party (the ANC)”, it will stand her in good stead. This applies particularly to dealings with National Treasury on the always thorny issue of defence funding.
That the new minister is, so to say, surrounded by “new brooms”, Marais sees as another indicator of better times ahead.
“She has a relatively new Secretary for Defence (Gladys Kudjoe), a new SANDF Chief (General Rudzani Maphwanya), a newish Army Chief (Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha), a new SA Air Force (SAAF) Chief (Lieutenant General Wiseman Mlambo), a new Defence Intelligence Chief (Lieutenant General Thalita Mxakato) and soon, a new Surgeon General (current Major General Ntshavheni Maphaha).
“It is a good position for Modise to be in with new – and fresh – leaders to tackle the challenges the SANDF faces. I sincerely hope ‘the new brooms’ will sweep clean, leaving no holy cows to roam freely,” the official opposition’s designated defence watchdog said in a mixed metaphor.
Among issues he will take up with Minister Modise are reforming and repositioning the SANDF for current and future needs. This “definitely” includes long and poorly guarded land borders as well as patrolling and policing of South Africa’s maritime borders and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Defence and military priorities must be overhauled and a new White Paper setting out a realistic, achievable, affordable and sustainable defence policy for the short, medium and long term is urgently needed.”
Marais also wants a reduction in salary spend in the defence budget. It currently stands at 60% plus and he sees 50 to 55% as achievable.