Defence analysts give Sisulu cautious welcome


Defence analysts have given former housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu a cautious welcome to her new portfolio of defence and military veterans.

Sisulu, the daughter of African National Congress stalwarts Walter and Albertina Sisulu is regarded as part of the party aristocracy and has previously also served as Intelligence minister.

“At first glance a ‘jobs for pals` appointment”, says a prominent defence analyst, ” and her track record as housing minister does not fill one with confidence; nor, I think, did intelligence fare particularly well under her management, although I am open to correction on that.

“On the other hand, at least she has the intelligence background, so she is not totally new to the broad environment,” the analyst adds.

“The real pity is that the SANDF (South African National Defence Force) now has to go over the entire briefing-in process all over again, having only just completed it with the previous minister and his deputy (Charles Nqakula and Fezile Bhengu who were appointed in late September after the resignation of Mosiuoa Lekota and Mluleki George).

The analyst adds that the post of Secretary for Defence is still filled by an acting appointee – Tsepe Motumi- and that “a number of senior people are set to leave or retire in the very near future.

“That means a lot of turbulence at the top, and probably a lot of delays in taking key decisions that need to be taken urgently,” the analyst warns.

He notes that new deputy minister and former Mpumalanga premier Thabang Makwetla spent time on the Joint Standing Committee on Defence “so he should have some understanding of what is needed.”

A defence academic says Sisulu`s appointment raises a “number of particular issues” to which he does “not necessarily have the answers”.

This includes whether the appointment “is truly a reflection of the institutional knowledge of the ANC on defence.”

The academic says Sisulu “has not even served in the portfolio committee of defence in the past. This becomes even more of an issue if one considers the fact that (President Jacob) Zuma included (General) Siphiwe Nyanda in his cabinet.”

The academic continues that “the counter question – of course – is whether this issue of institutional knowledge really matters. My view is that in the case of defence it is important and it matters.”

Secondly, the scholar adds, “one has to ask the question whether her appointment is saying something about civil-military relations and particularly the role and position of the military in South Africa. Once again, I think it does. … The fact that it is saying something is, however, without doubt.”

The analyst and a retired flag officer welcomed the expansion of the defence portfolio to include veterans. The analyst says “one can make a good argument that the military should look after its own, and not leave their fate in the hands of people who see a former soldier as no different to a former toilet cleaner.”

The admiral says it “could be a great step forward as ever since Union in 1910 military veterans have largely been unrecognised if not ignored at the political level.”