Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence minister David Maynier says defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu is trying to prevent him from visiting Doornkop Military Base in southern Johannesburg, where he wants to see first hand poor conditions that greatly upset Sisulu’s interim National Defence Force Service Commission (NDFSC) when they viewed facilities there in October.
“The situation was so serious, according to [commission chairman] Judge [Ronnie] Bosielo, that he submitted an interim report on November 5 recommending that the minister immediately intervene at Doornkop,” Maynier said.
Bosielo last month told the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, that there had been a complete breakdown of discipline at Doornkop and that service conditions there were “sub-human”. He called the situation there a “ticking time bomb”.
“We now need to know what action has been taken by General Godfrey Ngwenya, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (CSANDF), and General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African Army, to restore discipline and improve service conditions at Doornkop Military Base.
“If action has been taken to restore discipline and improve service conditions, the minister will have nothing to hide and there should be no need to try and prevent a visit to the Doornkop.
“But … Sisulu appears to be doing her level best to prevent me from visiting Doornkop.”
The NDFSC includes MPs from two opposition parties, the United Democratic Movement and the Freedom Front Plus, but excludes the DA, the largest opposition party.
Maynier says he wrote to Thabo Gigaba, Parliamentary Liaison Officer in the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans, on November 18 requesting urgent assistance in making arrangements to visit Doornkop.
“The e-mail did not receive an acknowledged or reply from the Ministry. On November 25 I did however receive a copy of a letter from … Sisulu, addressed to ‘Nyami’ Booi, chair of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, which reads as follows:- ‘In view of the fact that parliamentary oversight resides with the … committee, I would like to suggest that this and other related requests be channelled through the chair of the committee, in order that the necessary arrangements could be made with the CSANDF’.
“The letter was only received as a result of several calls to the ministry demanding a response to my letter dated November 18”, Maynier said in a press release.
“I have yet to receive an acknowledgment and reply to my e-mail dated November 18 and have also not received an acknowledgment or reply to subsequent correspondence about this matter from the ministry.
“Sisulu is evidently trying to turn … Booi … into a her parliamentary traffic manager deciding who may or may not visits military bases.
“There is no need for requests to visit military bases should be ‘channelled’ through Parliament. The practical effect, as the minister well knows, will be to place control of visits to military bases in the hands of the ruling party. The fact is that any Member of Parliament should – with the assistance of the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans – be entitled to visit military bases.
“There is a serious situation that has been allowed to develop at the Doornkop Military Base. We cannot afford a second Union Buildings-style military mutiny, especially in the run up to World Cup 2010. That is why we need to visit the base as soon as possible,” Maynier added.
“The minister cannot be allowed to continue to ride roughshod over parliament and turn the department of defence into a state-within-a-state.
“The collective effort of the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Leader of Government Business in Parliament, and Max Sisulu, Speaker of the National Assembly, was necessary to force the minister to answer parliamentary questions about the Department of Defence and Military Veterans. It will be a pity if we have to go the same route to force the minister and her staff to properly respond to correspondence and requests by members of parliament to visit military bases.”
The Department of Defence was last night asked for a response but had not replied by 2pm today.
Pic: A September file photograph of an ablution facility at Doornkop.