Re-appointed Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais is cautiously optimistic the start of the sixth parliament could herald positive changes in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its management.
He points to the terms of office of SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke and Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube coming to an end.
“This is the best possible time for new and progressive leadership to steer the ship that is the national military machine to calmer waters,” he told defenceWeb.
Marais will be actively seeking to influence civilian leadership at the Department of Defence, the Defence Secretariat and the national defence force to bring down personnel numbers in the SANDF.
“I want to stress this must not happen at the expense of leadership and skills. Rejuvenation of the national defence force must be based on its primary objectives, one of which is to ensure South Africa’s territorial sovereignty.”
He will also use Parliament and its various mechanisms to push for improved border security. “South Africa has to be made safe for all its citizens and we have to be active in this regard to make the country a more attractive destination for investors.”
Those with overall responsibility for defence will, Marais maintains, be held accountable in the fullest sense.
“This definitely includes accepting the state of the economy and budget constraints on the national defence force. It must, of necessity, see a re-prioritisation of defence expenses and must bear in mind recapitalisation of essential assets and equipment,” Marais said adding he would work towards seeing an expansion of cybersecurity capabilities as another necessity.
His cautious optimism also extends to the defence portfolio committee which he wants to see being “stronger and more vigorous when it comes to its oversight role, remembering at all times to work in compliance with Section 200 of the National Constitution and in the best interests of South Africa”.