Parliament “officially” starts on Thursday this week with the Presidential State of the Nation Address (SONA) but its engine rooms – the oversight committees – are already up and running.
The Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) has already got to work and has another meeting scheduled for this week on Wednesday.
Additionally, it has compiled a list of six “challenges” it will give special attention to while not ignoring other issues affecting the wider South African defence and security landscape.
On projects, committee co-chair Cyril Xaba and his committee members will keep a weather eye on projects Biro (three purpose-built multi-mission inshore patrol vessels), Hoefyster (the long-running and, to all intents and purposes, stalled build of new infantry combat vehicles) and Hotel (a new hydrographic vessel, workboat, support boats and shore infrastructure upgrade). A recommendation is for Armscor and Denel to jointly “look” at the viability of continuing with Project Hoefyster.
The National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), now presumably under chairmanship of Khumbudzo Ntshaveni, will also merit the attention of the JSCD. Ntshaveni was Small Business Development Minister before being named by President Cyril Ramaphosa as acting Minister in The Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation following the death of Jackson Mthembu.
The JSCD is planning interactions with the NCACC on end user certificate (EUC) amendments and implementation as well as an update on the committee’s reporting format for comparative and economic analyses.
Conduct of soldiers, consequence management and implementing new regulations will be taken up under the overall heading of deployments. The committee will, as far as possible, attempt to ensure letters from the President as regards “employment” (as in the case of Operation Notlela) and deployments are received timeously.
The sustainability of South Africa’s ailing defence industry, amply evidenced at State-owned Denel, is another focus area for Xaba and his committee. They plan to engage industry, presumably via industry association AMD, and the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC).
Items on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting include consideration of the oversight report for the visit late last year to selected land borders, AFB Waterkloof, 1 Military Hospital and 4 VRP (Vehicle Reserve Park) at Wallmannsthal.