Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Ladies and Gentlemen
You will no doubt have taken note that missing from among us today is General Godfrey Ngwenya who has since 30 March 2011 relinquished his post as Chief of the South African National Defence Force. He is now His Excellency, the Ambassador of South Africa to Angola.
He is an amazing man, our General Ngwenya, dedicated and unassuming. The National Defence Force was his life. He served with distinction in our ranks as MK Commander in our camps in Angola in the 1980s and in that capacity was the last man standing when our soldiers retuned home after 1990. He joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), in 1976 and commanded MK forces in Angola from 1983 to 1989.
He was appointed Chief of the National Defence Force on 1 June 2005. He was an outstanding General and held the integrity of the National Defence Force, upholding every virtue we stand for. A man of outstanding discipline.
He brought stability and a sense of belonging to members. He kept the National Defence Force together under very trying times when there was a political glitch, which had a distinct impact on the National Defence Force. He remarkably held it together when not only the then Minister, but the Deputy Minister too, turned their backs on the National Defence Force and jumped ship to sink forever into the distant horizon of oblivion. We survived that unthinkable act: when a Minister of Defence effectively defects, because General Ngwenya held the fort. He will be sorely missed.
The President will shortly be announcing the Chief of the South African National Defence Force. And judging from the current leadership of the National Defence Force, it will be a man. I know that does not give the rest of us any clues, but it allows me to say with certainty that he will be called upon to fill General Ngwenya’s shoes and lead the National Defence Force to its full potential. This will be no mean feat for anyone, no matter the size of his shoes.
I take this opportunity also to thank the outgoing board of Armscor, whose term of office comes to an end on 30 April 2011. In particular, its Chairperson, Dr Popo Molefe and Mr Roelf Meyer, who have served two terms and who, with excellent leadership, have notched up significant accomplishments in creating new ways of thinking. I thank them immensely for their service to the country by serving on the Board of Armscor. Their stature, in their own right, has added credibility to our process and institution. The work of Armscor has shown that we had such steadfast men of vision and commitment. I am sad to lose them from the Armscor ambit, but I hope they will find it in them to serve with us again in other capacities.
To the Chairperson, Dr Molefe, your personal support has been invaluable to me. May you remain forever an embodiment of everything we believe in and have fought for. To both of you, South Africa is so much richer for what you have given.
We have to bid farewell too to the Commissioners of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission. I have boundless gratitude for the enormous work they have done; for their commitment to their work; for their impartiality and impeccable scrutiny. Their dedication has allowed us to meet our target of establishing a new defence dispensation in record time. Each one of the members of the Interim Commission brought unique skills that together provided us with incredible capacity.
Within the rights afforded me by the Constitution, I took a conscious decision that we needed to investigate the creation of a separate dispensation for the National Defence Force, so that we can improve the functioning and conditions in defence. I appointed the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission after consultation with Cabinet. In appointing the Interim Commission, I also took the decision, completely outside any requirements of the law, to consult with the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on the appointment of members of the Interim Commission. It is now a common recorded fact that some in the Portfolio Committee have abused this gesture of goodwill and typical of a twisted mind, hyped up a matter so tangential to the real issues we sought to resolve, that it was quite clear that they had no idea what the real challenges of our people in the National Defence Force are. While they were caught up in their self-serving melodrama, phantom of the opera, the Interim Commission calmly kept their course and have delivered a very sound report to guide government on some of the challenges that had built up over fifteen years in the National Defence Force.
In line with their main term of reference, they have helped create a dispensation within which we are now dealing with the unique problems of our soldiers, within an environment that is uniquely Defence.
I thank you, as we wind up the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission. The term of office of the Interim Commission comes to an end next week, when I will be announcing the names of the new Defence Force Service Commission, after I have consulted Cabinet.
A special gratitude goes to the Judge Bosielo, the Chairperson of the Interim Commission, for your sterling stewardship; to the Members of Parliament who served, for showing that, although serving in the Opposition, you are equally committed to the constructive development of this country; for showing that being in the Opposition has nothing to do with opportunistic irresponsibility and has nothing to do with vain attempts at creating a profile. You have inextricably bound your names to that which will enable our soldiers to live better lives. You worked with integrity to promote the defence of our country. I dread to think what would have happened if certain other members of the Opposition had been on the Interim Commission. I would not be exaggerating if I said that the opportunity would have been used for personal exhibition, at great security expense for the National Defence Force.
General Ngwenya, Dr Molefe, Mr Meyer and members of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission, I thank you all for your unwavering service. The National Defence Force is so much stronger for your work. You possess that distinctive edge that one acquires when one strives to live to give to a greater cause than oneself. That is what we experienced in each one of you.
I deliberately started on that sombre, sad tone of bidding farewell to a number of people who have contributed significantly to where we are. This was to ensure that we all recognise that we have reached the end of a particular era in Defence. But also to emphasise that for every end, there is a new beginning, a continuity and a responsibility on each one to ensure that that continuity honours the work that is laid out for us.
It is on that note of new beginnings that I would like to welcome the new chairpersons of our Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and Joint Standing Committee on Defence. Your vigour, honesty and focus has been refreshing. We look forward to a very productive working relationship.
Chairpersons of the Committees, I ask that you understand that our responsibility is the defence of this country. There is no place in this noble cause for tantrums. We ask that you deal with the media seeking tantrums within your environment, so that we can deal with our work. In this period of security turmoil and uncertainty on much of the continent, we have a great deal of responsibility and much to achieve.
Chairperson, as we look back from our mid-term vantage point I must say that, on those priorities we set ourselves last year, we have exceeded our own expectations. Apart from the hopelessly inadequate budget – a major hindrance that I will deal with later – as I have alluded to, we have had incredible success, thanks to the many dedicated people that work tirelessly to secure our country.
When the country hosted the Fifa Soccer World Cup, the National Defence Force set out to ensure that the country, as was required, provided iron-clad security for the duration of the tournament. The preparation, coordination and management of security fell under the auspices of both the National Defense Force and the South African Police Services.
Throughout the tournament we patrolled our territorial waters and the approaches to the ports where soccer was being played, while we covered our airspace with flying air combat patrols over all the stadia. The SA Army formed a cordon on our borders and in the periphery at stadia where games were being played. The South African Medical and Health Services was on standby for any emergency.
Our Air Defence was in control as we exercised a no-fly zone over the games. We were authorised to shoot down any flight that was unauthorised, but – here is a point pertinent for the present – we were able to show that it is possible to exercise a no-fly zone without attacking anyone.
It is also in this reporting period that the National Defense Force was called upon to assume further responsibility during the crippling three-week national health workers strike in August 2010. We responded to a request from Cabinet and deployed our personnel by taking over 74 abandoned hospitals in eight provinces. The SANDF gladly undertook these responsibilities, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
These successes are consistent with our sterling performance on external missions. On the continental front, we are one of the biggest contributors of peacekeeping forces. I am pleased to state with pride that our armed forces are some of the most preferred in peacekeeping operations. We serve with distinction and we have been internationally acclaimed for the work that we do.
It was for these reasons that at the end of the year, we provided a general performance bonus as a token of appreciation to all members of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) on salary levels 1- 12 for their hard work and contribution towards these successes. Their contribution, loyalty, dedication and patriotism are the cornerstones of the SANDF.
We seek to highlight this sterling contribution to respond to those whose role has been to throw mud to demoralise our troops. These individuals, and in collaboration with their sponsors in the media, spared no effort to try to malign and denigrate our armed forces. They sought to use every platform to cast doubt at the leadership of this august structure. These individuals, who are given to melodrama, have confused parliament for theatre – a place where they would be well advised to go and ply their skills. I am sure there is a role for them as Mother Hubbard, or something at the Baxter Theatre.
Chairperson, our success over the past financial year bears testimony to us having met the targets that we set ourselves during the 2009/10 financial year.
Last year we made very bold statements, indicating what we had hoped to have achieved by now. We set ourselves some very ambitious priorities and we can report that we have achieved these priorities.
1. Defence Dispensation
This is the most significant among those we achieved, with the generous help of both the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission and Members of Parliament, except the usual rebel. The Defence Amendment Bill has been passed by Parliament and I would like to thank the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans for their support.
We set the goal of creating a new dispensation for the National Defence Force and we have done that. With the completion of Regulations, we will have removed the National Defence Force from the strangle hold of an ill-fitting establishment and placed it in an environment where it should be and from which we hope it can propel itself forward. This has been such a remarkable step that I am amazed it took us such a short space of time. But of course it had its fair share of melodrama, completely out of sync with the dignity of the matters at hand. We can now concentrate on the pertinent issues of conditions of service, remuneration and grading of posts that speak to the core function of the National Defence Force.
We are now in charge of the destiny of our soldiers and are able to do what all along should have been the most sensible thing to do for the National Defence Force. The most basic advantage, long overdue is that, within this dispensation we can now deal comprehensively with the issue of the accommodation of our soldiers; we can now deal comprehensively with the grievance of our personnel within our environment; we can now deal comprehensively with the discipline of our soldiers within the mould of our institutions. It boggles the mind why it took us so many years to get here. And most importantly, we intend to use this dispensation to ensure that the State can invest in each soldier in direct proportion to what the State expects of that soldier. The funding of the National Defence Force has to reflect this reality.
2. Military Veterans
We promised to ensure the full functionality of the Department of Military Veterans. This year we mark the 50th year since the formation of our oldest non-statutory force, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The coming year will thus be characterised by initiatives to show our indebtedness and recognition to all those who sacrificed their well-being to help us realise the freedoms that we now enjoy. This is the single most important priority we set ourselves and we would like to dedicate this year to ensuring we can meet our obligation.
The Deputy Minister of Defence, who is responsible for the Department of Military Veterans, will elaborate on the progress we have thus made in pushing ahead with our responsibility in this area.
We promised that the matter of the Department’s status as repeat offender in the Auditor-General’s report would come to an end. And we lived up to that promise. The Auditor-General’s report indicates the good work that has been put into ensuring that our audit reflects our determination. The only outstanding qualification is a genetic disadvantage of all Defence Forces in the world. But we are working on it. Both the Secretary for Defence and the Chief Financial Officer are keenly aware that their life depends on this. We promised to appoint a Compliance Officer in the Minister’s office – we have done that.
4. Border security
We promised to return to the borders and we can report we have done so. We are currently covering 1 500 kilometres of border. At the end of our full deployment, it is estimated that the SANDF will cover 4 471 kilometre of land border, 2 700 km of maritime border and 76 600 kilometre of air. We took the opportunity to invite members of the Portfolio Committee to see the formidable challenges that we faced as we took over the responsibility. Now South Africa is reaping the benefits of our deployment. Our borders are securer, cross-border crime has dropped, syndicate crime has been dealt a blow and our communities and the farmers feel safer, because they believe in us.
As of 1 April 2011, we have moved to the second phase and are now deployed in the pivotal area of the Kruger National Park border. The rich rewards here cover areas we had not previously regarded as our domain. But today we can confirm that the scourge of rhino poaching is well within our sights.
5. Policy Review
We promised to deal with a number of issues of policy review and we have done that. 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.
We also promised that we would deal with the vexing question of the repositioning of the Secretariat of Defence. We have done that. We have a draft document of this proposal that we would also like to present to the relevant Parliamentary Committee at their earliest opportunity.
We promised to look into the possibility of the National Youth Service and develop a policy for it. We have completed this and prepared a draft policy.
We promised to deal with the repositioning of the Defence Industry, especially that of Denel, and we have done that. Again, we are ready to make a presentation to the relevant Parliamentary Committee at its earliest opportunity.
We await the preferred dates from the Oversight Committees and want to implore Honourable Members not to use these policy documents for cheap publicity stunts. There are processes to follow in Government and we ensured that all of these are followed. Honourable Members, the work has been done and we await details of your availability to present all of these. Please banish any thoughts of further publicity gimmicks.
6. Defence Works Capability
We promised to urgently attend to the matter of the declining state of defence infrastructure. The Department of Defence began discussions with the Department of Public Works on the establishment of the Defence Estate Management mechanism, which will result in the Department of Defence progressively exiting from the current arrangement on Property and Facilities Management by the Department of Public Works. The rolling out of the Defence Works Capability, which will be an in-house capability to maintain and repair defence facilities, will be implemented in this financial year. We have progressed very well on that front.
We have not, however succeeded in covering two critical issues, namely the revitalization of landward forces and the essential matter that we are discussing today – the budget of the SANDF. These remain the critical drivers of the priorities that we have identified for this current financial year.
The budget of the Department of Defence has to change and reflect the Constitutional requirements that we have. To bemoan the inadequacies of the budget is to repeat what each one here understands is a matter we should all seek to address as a matter of urgency. In this current period of turmoil in North Africa and the Cote D’Ivoire, we are called upon to ensure we have our defence in place in a constant state of readiness for any eventuality.
In the short term we have had to reprioritise, and use the virement tool to scrape through, at great cost to our programmes and development. The priorities we outline now will require a significantly increased budget and we ask you to consider this in your submission of our budget.
And now, going forward, our priorities for the current financial year are as follows:
1.Entrenching the new dispensation
The legislation was passed and has been promulgated. In line with the requirements, we are preparing the Regulations that will lay the foundation of this dispensation. We expect these to be completed soon. This dispensation will not be an event that we will have to have a way of phasing in, as we phase out the old in a manageable and structured way. Fortuitously it comes at a time when we have completed our improved grievance process and at a time when we are ready to table the Military Ombudsman Bill, which Ombudsman we envisage will be appointed jointly by Parliament and report to Parliament.
This also comes at a time when we have taken the decision on the future of the unions in the National Defence Force. We will be tabling legislation in this regard and to deal with this matter, so that I do not continuously have to answer the perennial question from yourselves about why we are still allowing unions in the National Defence Force. We have taken the political decision. The decision will be in your hands, as the legislature to implement; you have the mandate and the power.
The third of this threesome package of bills will be the Military Discipline Bill. All three bills are ready and I hope we can prioritise them.
2.Improvement of Conditions in the SANDF
We are working on a progressive realisation of improved conditions of our soldiers, in part attended to by legislation outlined above and by the Service Commission. As mentioned earlier, we are taking over from the Department of Public Works our right to attend to the accommodation of our soldiers. We are stuck with the budget that we have. However, we have resolved to be prudent with our resources. We have imposed stringent austerity measures in our system. Further, we are working on ways of maximising our assets to benefit our need for decent accommodation for our soldiers. Our assets are the land we own and the Defence Works Capability.
We have just concluded an audit of Defence Endowment land and properties. We received this last week and, just in passing, it was shocking that we could not find all the information of land and properties which presumably, after years of neglect, has been taken advantage of. Nonetheless, the point is, we have the outcome of the audit and we know the value of what we own. The next phase would be an audit of land that we own, but is in the custody of the Department of Public Works. We intend to put this land to productive use, primarily in partnership with the private sector and our Works Regiment, to build accommodation for our soldiers.
The accommodation of our soldiers is an urgent matter. This year we will deal with it as a mega Defence Works project and next year we will have completed a significant number of units of accommodation by the time we report back.
We believe there is a great potential here, both for the partnership and for the revitalisation of our Works Regiment, for the creation of jobs and for the main product, decent accommodation for our soldiers and their families. This is ten years overdue and we are dealing with a huge backlog. The roll-out of the Works Capability will also enable us to maintain and repair our facilities.
3.National Youth Service
The world has recently had a rude shock from the events in North Africa and woken up to the fact that our stability rests on how we respond to the aspirations of the youth. South Africa has been alive to these challenges long before it was fashionable. The President was the first to direct our attention to the demographic and political challenges of a youthful country. Long before anyone ever imagined there would be trouble in what was considered safe countries of Tunisia and Egypt.
The President indicated in 2010 that “everything we do must answer the needs of our youth. Unless we appreciate this reality and unless we understand its implications, we will not be able to make the correct policy choices and pursue the most appropriate development path. ”
Consequently, we had proposed the establishment of the National Youth Service to respond to this gargantuan challenge to exploit the untapped and sometimes misguided youthful exuberant energy. In doing so, we have sought wisdom from a wide range of countries that have National Youth Programmes and have teased some of the best practices for our own benefit. We claim no monopoly of wisdom. It is for this reason that I sought advice of some of the best minds in the country to assist me in crafting the conceptual framework for the National Youth Service. The draft policy is here and will be presented to the Portfolio Committee.
We have received overwhelming support for this initiative, so overwhelming in fact that we had to take a step back to ensure we have the proper policy guidelines to accommodate this. We have completed the first working draft of our policy on our National Youth Service, which will be presented to the Portfolio Committee at the earliest opportunity.
Consistent with our policy to work with other Ministries and Departments, I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the first pilot of the National Youth Service programme with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. This is work in progress and we hope to learn from experience as we continue to refine our thoughts and practice as we prepare to launch the full-scale programme over the next year. We now have a disciplined, committed core of youth in our rural areas working for development. Gainfully engaged patriots.
The defence and security of South Africa is inextricably linked to that of the region and the continent. Being a littoral country, South Africa needs to have a balanced maritime capability to effectively respond to arising maritime security threats affecting South Africa. This will focus on deterring piracy and other maritime illegal activities along the Southern Africa Coast on the Indian Ocean, in particular the Mozambique Channel, following reports of piracy activities off the Mozambique coast and parts of Tanzania. There are therefore outcomes of a bilateral arrangement between the South African and Mozambique Governments. Hitherto, efforts are undertaken to consolidate and present a regional strategy towards eradicating the scourge of piracy in the Southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.
5.Revitalisation of the Reserve Force
The Defence Amendment Act (Act 22 of 2010) promulgated in December 2010 makes provision for Reserve Force members in terms of their call-up to perform various duties during peacetime. It also makes the failure to render service when called-up, without a valid reason, an offence. Part of our revitalisation of this sector has been the call-up of up to 16 000 Reserve Force Members. The implementation of these Reserve Force members’ legislative provisions shall be given effect through the applicable Regulations to be implemented during the course of the current financial year. The SANDF has developed a strategy on the transformation and revitalisation of the Reserves that will now be supported by this legislation.
A matter that I have committed to address appropriately is that of the South African Cape Corps (SACC), which was disbanded during 1992. Discussions in trying to restore the dignity of the affected members are currently underway as part of an integrated approach in addressing the pride of Military Veterans in the country.
6.Defence Industry – repositioning of Armscor and Denel
The restructuring of the Defence Industry will focus on defence capability, the interactive framework and function alignment in order to properly synchronise these with the requirements and mandate of the National Defence Force. The emphasis should be on Governance, Risk Management, Compliance and Accountability framework applicable within the Defence Portfolio.
As we commit ourselves to ensuring we can live up to our promises, we need to also celebrate our successes. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved and my sincerest gratitude to all who have contributed to these significant achievements.
To the Deputy Minister for his continued support.
To the acting Chief of the SANDF for his unfailing capacity, calmly to deliver and the Chiefs of Services for all your hard work. To the Secretary for Defence for her dogged determination to get things done. And to the Secretariat for Defence for getting those things done. To the Director-General of Military Veterans for his absolute commitment to ensure that the plight of our military veterans is heard and that the necessary processes and procedures are put in place to recognise the sacrifices they made so that we may live in a democratic country. To the Ministry staff for keeping us all going through your selfless, exceptional hard work.
Finally, and most importantly, to the uniformed and non-uniformed members of the Department, you have done me proud in the past year. I want to assure you that your welfare and your concerns are what drive us. Because we demand nothing but the best from you, we commit to nothing but the best for you.
You have freely, willingly committed yourselves to a profession that requires you to put the country first. We demand nothing less from you. For us, you are first – expect nothing less.
I thank you