The Democratic Alliance (DA) says a defence review is absolutely vital “because it provides an opportunity to reset the mandate, capabilities and funding levels of the Defence Force.”
“The last Defence Review – a process aimed at long-term Defence Force planning – was conducted thirteen years ago. The Interim National Defence Force Service Commission therefore recommended that the Defence Department once again undertake an extensive and properly funded Defence Review,” DA defence shadow minister David Maynier said in a statement.
The Afrikaans daily, Beeld, reported last month Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu had appointed a “heavy-weight” committee to review the latest final draft of the Defence Review. The committee, chaired by former National Party defence minister and long-time Armscor director Roelf Meyer, included defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman as member. It reportedly has until November to report.
Others serving on the committee, which Beeld reported has not yet been officially announced, include South African Navy Flag Officer Fleet Rear Admiral Philip Schöultz, until recently chief director of operations for the South African National Defence Force at the Joint Operations Division. Political appointees include African National Congress deputy secretary general Thandi Modise. Currently also North West Province premier, she was for several years a formidable chair of the Portfolio Committee on Defence. Also on the committee is Tony Yengeni, a former ANC chief whip and noted uMkhonto we Sizwe commander. He is currently an ANC National Executive Committee member. Beeld reports the committee had its first meeting last month.
Sisulu in in April said an update of South Africa’s 1996 White Paper on Defence and 1998 Defence Review had been completed and was ready for Parliamentary and public discussion. “We promised to deal with a number of issues of policy review and we have done that,” she said in her annual budget vote. “The long overdue Defence Review is here. We have a draft that we would like to present to the Parliamentary Committees at their earliest opportunity. Thereafter we would like to embark on a public consultative process before we submit the final Defence Review to Parliament.”
It is not clear why the latest draft, as prepared by the Department of Defence needs external revision.
Various ministers of defence have promised an update since 2004 but none have reached Parliament. Heitman has said that various efforts have been made over the years, with the latest produced just before Sisulu’s appointment. But this, he says, “blithely skipped over core strategic issues, ignored already approved army and navy force designs and contained errors of fact.” Heitman wrote in Janes’ Defence Weekly in April last year that the draft had been written “by advisers with naïve notions of international politics and little understanding of defence and who focused on peripheral issues.”
Maynier, in a statement, says Sisulu, should “immediately fire … Yengeni, who was convicted of fraud and is currently being investigated for illegal company directorships, from the committee dealing with the Defence Review. The fact is that Tony Yengeni is politically toxic and risks contaminating the entire defence review process.” The DA MP adds Yengeni’s “values clearly contrast with the core values of the Defence Force, which include integrity and honesty. … Tony Yengeni is clearly not a fit and proper person to serve on the Defence Review Committee, and the minister’s poor judgment now risks compromising the entire Defence Review.”
Pic: Tony Yengeni at an urban warfare demonstration, last week Wednesday. He attended as a member of the committee.