When Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula rises today to deliver her defence budget she does so as the second longest serving defence minister since the defeat of the then ruling National Party (NP) by the African National Congress (ANC) in the April 1994 general election.
She has occupied the suite of offices allocated to the most senior civilian in the national defence public sector since 12 June 2012, with today her ninth House of Assembly appearance as Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. Next month she will, unless Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa changes or shuffles his Cabinet, reach the nine-year mark. Mapisa-Nqakula was then president Jacob Zuma’s choice to replace Lindiwe Sisulu in mid-2012.
Only Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota was the civilian in overall charge of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for longer – nine years and three months. His tenure as defence and military veterans minister started in June 1999 under then president Thabo Mbeki before resigning from the ANC to form the Congress of the People (COPE) party late in 2008.
Other politicians – all ANC members – who have done time as defence and military veterans ministers are Joe Modise (May 1994 to June 1999) and Charles Nqakula, who succeeded Lekota from September 2008 to April the following year. In April 2009 Zuma decided he wanted Lindiwe Sisulu as his “point man” in the defence and military veterans portfolio, where she stayed until moved to the then human settlements portfolio in June 2012.
Deputy ministers in the defence and military veterans portfolio since 1994 include Ronnie Kasrils, Mluleki George, Kebby Maphatsoe and present incumbent Thabang Makwetla.