A new minister at Defence


Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, formerly the Minister of Correctional Services, has been appointed as the new Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, replacing Lindiwe Sisulu. President Jacob Zuma announced the reshuffling during a special briefing at the Union Buildings in Pretoria yesterday afternoon.

Sisulu has been moved to the ministry of Public Service and Administration to replace the late Roy Padayachee. Sibusiso Ndebele has taken up Mapisa-Nqakula’s position as correctional services minister. Public Enterprises deputy minister Ben Martins will replace Ndebele as Minister of Transport.

There were also new appointments as deputy ministers.

Mapisa-Nqakula was the minister of home affairs from 2004 and was appointed minister of correctional services in 2009.

She obtained a teacher’s diploma from the Bensonvale Teachers College.

In 1984, she left South Africa to undergo military training in Angola and the Soviet Union. During this time she served as the head of a commission that was set up to investigate desertions of ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) members to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Angola.

In 1993 she became the Secretary-General of the ANC Women’s League. Before her appointment as Minister of Home Affairs, she held the position as Deputy-Minister of the department.

Her husband, Charles, high commissioner-designate to Mozambique, was defence minister from September 2008 to May 2009. He is currently a member of the Defence Review Committee (DRC). It is not yet clear how or if the change in minister will affect the 2012 draft Defence Review, the first in 14 years.

Defence analyst, and Nqakula’s colleague on the DRC, Helmoed-Römer Heitman said in reaction the timing was extremely unfortunate. “Nothing against the new Minister, about whom I know nothing, but Sisulu had worked hard to win the confidence and trust of the military and to offer some hope of adequate funding in the future, and had brought some hope to the industry. Now there is a real risk that everything is put on hold while the new minister and personal staff are briefed in, read themselves in and think about how they want to do things. Worse, with the party congress close by, the chances of a new minister taking any decisions before that event seem small. Failing decisions the cost of some project will rise, there is a real chance that others will fail and that some defence companies – and potential foreign clients – will decide that SA is not serious about either defence or the industry – how can we be serious when we change ministers at a critical time for both the Defence Force and the industry? African governments will also wonder how serious we are about anything – they already feel that we are not pulling our weight in respect of regional and continental peace support, stabilisation and constabulary deployments, and will see this change at a critical time as further proof that we are not serious.”
“The new minister will have to move with the speed of light to get briefed in, take a chance or two on acquisition decisions to keep momentum and confidence going, and make an immense effort to assure the military and the industry that there is a real future for them, not some make-believe,” Heitman adds. “And she will have to fight for increased funding without having had the chance to really get to know the portfolio. A tough challenge for her, the more so as Sisulu is a hard act to follow and will be sorely missed.”

Freedom Front Plus Member of Parliament and defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald said Sisulu had taken steps to improve the defence force, although she was not transparent. The creation of a Military Ombud, a service conditions commission, a department for military veterans and the Defence Review Committee were positive steps. On the downside, her contemptuous attitude to Parliament in the form of sarcastic answers to parliamentary questions and even the avoidance of answering these made her controversial, he added. The new minister has been involved with the defence and security services through parliamentary committees since 1994. The defence force should not be unfamiliar to her. “I know her as a hardworking person and hope she’ll show the same drive in defence that she showed at the helm of correctional services.” Groenewald served on the interim defence force service commission. Cabinet has approved the membership of a permanent commission but the names have not yet been released to the public domain.

By contrast, the official opposition Democratic Alliance’s defence shadow minister, David Maynier said: “I am delighted that … Sisulu … has been fired by President Jacob Zuma. The fact is that the minister has turned the defence force into a state-within-a state beyond oversight by Parliament. This bring to end a political war between the minister and myself which has gone on for more than two years in Parliament. I look forward to working with the new minister to deal with the challenges facing the defence force.”