Budget vote: Remarks by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu at the pre-budget vote media briefing, Parliament, media briefing room, April 13, 2011

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I want to pay tribute to the former Chief of the SANDF, General Ngwenya who is now the South African Ambassador in Angola. A committed and dedicated General of our people. A victim of the bloody wars of Apartheid, he was injured in an ambush on his way from Luanda to the base camp in Pango, Angola on 20 May 1988 and had to undergo a year’s surgery. He transferred to the South African National Defence Force, when it was founded in 1994.

General Ngwenya led the SANDF during difficult times, when the SANDF was consolidating transformation and integration. He was also there when for the first time in the history of the world a Minister and Deputy Minister of Defence abandon him to start a dying party. The General was there for his soldiers at all times. On behalf of the Commander in Chief, President Jacob Zuma, Cabinet, the people of South Africa, SADC and Africa we thank you.

The South African National Defence Force was safe in his hands, an achievement possible because of his passion for his work and his level-headedness. He will be sorely missed, but his achievements remain. We can only build on their solid base.

In the meantime, the Acting Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General T Matanzima holds the fort very ably until such time as the President shall appoint a new Chief of the SANDF, which will be before June 2011.

We will be presenting our budget and we will take stock of the achievements and the challenges that remain and how we can work together with all stakeholders to resolve the challenges in order to build the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) loved by all South Africa. We seek to build an SANDF that is respected and trusted because it is professional, committed and it cares.

Twice since I took office, the SANDF had to contend with the protracted and crippling public service national strike. In both instances, the SANDF delivered the extraordinary and exceptional service that made it the pride of the nation, showing that we are a Force that cares.

Our neighbours on the continent will not forget the role our soldiers have played and continue to play in rebuilding their country and establishing systems for economic development. The Interim National Service Commission has recently returned from a visit to the DRC, where it was confirmed to them what we have always known: that we are a preferred force on the continent and our neighbours in SADC and the continent share the same respect and appreciation for the SANDF. The success of Burundi as a state and the thriving economic activities would not have been possible if the SANDF did not deploy when no one wanted to deploy.

In the months prior to the hosting of the FIFA World Cup tournament in June/July 2010 the doomsayers were liberally casting aspersions on the ability and capacity of the SANDF and other security agencies to provide security for the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010. We proved to all those who doubted both our ability and our resolve to ensure a safe and secure environment completely wrong.

We provided iron-clad and meticulously executed security plan during the Soccer extravaganza. The SANDF deployed all its services, the Army, the Airforce, the Navy and SAMHS to ensure that the world can enjoy soccer in peace. Working with other law enforcement agencies we developed a model of security that many across the world are now copying. In the same vein the SANDF has become experts on election logistics in Africa. It is now a known fact that if you want elections to be successful you need to work with the SANDF logistics team, because we are dependable, we deliver and we are efficient.

As we review our work of the past two years or so, we are very proud of what the Department of Defence has achieved. Challenges remaining, we have achieved a lot as a Ministry and a Department. Our soldiers have also done very well when deployed, they have shown us that their state of readiness is equal to those of their colleagues across the world; they stand tall when called upon to deploy. In the face of insults and mud throwing from the opposition, they remained focused and delivered to the nation, region and the continent.

KEY PRIORITIES AND PROGRESS

Condition of service in the SANDF

Our key responsibility as the Ministry and the Department is to build a Defence Force that is able to protect its people during difficult times.

It is our constitutional responsibility to protect the state and its people. The final report of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission that investigated the systemic challenges facing the SANDF for the past 17 years gave us more details of the challenges we were dealing with. Many of those challenges relate to building, accommodations and other basic infrastructure.

To address deep rooted grievance management problems in the SANDF, we have also introduced a new grievance management policy and a Bill for the Military Ombudsman has been approved by Cabinet. We inherited thousands of unresolved cases in the SANDF in 2009.

We have dedicated teams working on them and we can report today that we are making progress. We are committed to finalising them before the end of 2013. The Permanent National Defence Force Service Commission and the Military Ombuds will also play a central role in settling some of these cases.

We are committed to addressing the condition of service in the SANDF, it is a priority we are committed to and we are allocating resources. Now that we have laid the systems for self maintenance and management of our properties the Works Regiment will intensify the maintenance and up keep of all properties. We have completed a strategy to establish our own Real Estate Agency to manage our property portfolio of more than 430,000 hectares of land, approximately 35,000 buildings and more than 12 million square metres of surface area within buildings that is currently managed by Public Works.

The Works Regiment of the SANDF has begun a committed and dedicated project to access the maintenance and building work required in the SANDF. Our biggest problem is also accommodation for soldiers and their families and additional office space for the SANDF.

We have done detailed work on the land and properties that we own. This is a new and exciting venture for us. We will soon call on the private sector to work with us in developing the land on lease or loan to build bases, offices and most important accommodation for our soldiers.

Among the commitments we made in 2009 is the creation of a new dispensation for the SANDF, as you all know we have completed that task. The Defence Amendment Bill was signed into law by the President in December 2010 and thus introducing a Permanent National Defence Force Service Commission and a new dispensation out of the public service for the SANDF. We are finalising the necessary regulations and systems for a full implementation of the new dispensation.

Restoring dignity of Military Veterans

Also very important was the introduction of the Department of Military Veterans, the responsibility that is operationally under the Deputy Minister, the Department is established, a DG has been appointed, senior managers appointed. We have submitted a Bill before Parliament to define military veterans and also define the benefits of Military Veterans. Cabinet has approved the Bill and the funding. We are today able to say to assure military veterans that as we complete the process to pay the Non Statutory Pension we will also be fast tracking the rolling out of all benefits in the Bill. A call centre to facilitate easy communication with Veterans would be established by the end of this month, April 2011.

Returning to the Border, Land, Sea and Air

The phased return of the SANDF to cover the over 4471 kms of land border between our country and Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho is strengthening the safety of our citizens and those of SADC. In the execution of this task four companies have been deployed and are respectively based at Musina and Pontdrift along the Zimbabwe/Botswana/RSA border, Macadamia along the Mozambique/Mpumalanga border and Ndumo along the Mozambique/KZN border. The phased in approach will see numbers increase in subsequent phases and the SANDF will be fully established on our borders by 2014/15.

The SAPS has reported a drop in illegal activities along the borderline since the deployment of our soldiers. A contributing factor to the successes achieved is the cooperation and good working relationship that has been established between the SANDF and the communities along the borders including the farmers in particular and the local community leadership. The SANDF and farmers have established forums in each of the areas where the SANDF is deployed. These forums meet every second month and are well-established and well-attended. Our people along the borders continue to write letters to me appreciating the arrival of their soldiers. The protection of our border is a constitutional mandate of the SANDF, we are fully committed to this responsibility.

Funds permitting by the end of the 2013 financial year we would cover the total 4471 kms of land border, 2700 km of sea and 76600km of air. We will also continue to patrol SADC waters to ensure smooth movement of ships and safe commerce and trade in the SADC region.

We have been asked by Sanparks to play a strategic role in the protection of our national parks. Parks are our national asserts and heritage. We must be protected for generations to come. We are convinced we will come to some agreement that will allow the SANDF to work with the SANPARKS as they patrol the border adjustment to the national parks. This can be in training, intelligence coordination and operation support.

Rejuvenating SANDF, Skills Development and facilitating job creation

As you are aware we have also completed a pilot project of the National Youth Service with 500 young people from the Department of Rural Development. We have learnt a lot from the pilot, we are enhancing the Youth Service as we prepare to open it up to more unemployed young South Africa. We are more than convinced that the SANDF can play a big role in developing unemployed young people.

Through the Military Skills Development System we have trained over 27 000 young people, giving them necessary skills they desperately need. The MSDS and the national youth service is our contribution to addressing skills shortage in the country and facilitating job creation. As the President correctly observed, the youthfulness of our population presents us with extraordinary opportunities including the fact that the country’s most productive years are yet to come. The idyllic future that we need to construct depends on what we do today. But this future will only be realized once we address another reality affecting the youth of our country, namely, poverty, unemployment and almost no foreseeable prospect of gainful economic participation.

Underpinning our NYS programme are three critical elements; FIRSTLY, it must respond to the challenge building youth character focusing on leadership, discipline, teamwork, volunteerism and infusing the love of country; SECONDLY it must address the shortage of critical technical skills that have been identified; THIRDLY, it will pay attention to the leadership, business and entrepreneurial skills necessary to navigate the stormy waters of the knowledge economy. At the end of the programme, recruits will be deployed in various working environments in government, the private sector and enterprise incubation ventures, in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders. This, we hope, will sharpen their skills in a practical setting.

In the area of skills development, the Reserves have undertaken skills development through the University Reserve Training Program and the Regional Defence Liaison. The University Reserve Training Program is focussed on developing the leadership potential of young people. Not only will the skills and capabilities of the junior leader element in the SANDF be enhanced in the short term but the achieved managerial skills will eventually be of benefit to the private sector in the long term. It is envisaged that 210 entrants in will incorporated into the program in 2011.

At this point I want to make a special call to all our MSDS graduates to join their nearest Reserve Force Battalion. We need them, with the deployment of the SANDF to the land border, peace keeping, patrolling the sea and other domestic and regional deployment; we need our reserves today more than ever.

The Defence Amendment Act passed in December 2010 also provided an opportunity to facilitate employment of reserves during peace time.

Our priorities (Landward forces)

In order to undertake all required missions, the enhancement of the Landward Defence Capabilities is essential. For the Landward Defence Capability to operate jointly with the Air Defence and Maritime Defence Capabilities, this enhancement is considered a priority. The Landward Defence Capability has not enjoyed the advantage of being part of the Strategic Defence Packages and is thus lacking technologically advanced Primary Mission Equipment. The development of this capability will rely on the acquisition of the required product systems which are largely from the landward defence system and from logistic support systems. This capability will ensure the sustainment of deployments beyond the borders of the RSA. Now that the Strategic Defence Programme is coming to an end, the Landward Systems will be the major focus for ARMSCOR, to equip the South African National Defence Force, mainly the Army. ARMSCOR continues to put together continuous improvement processes and systems to ensure that it fully meets the requirements of the Department of Defence.

A lot has been achieved by the Department of Defence since 2009. We have laid systems to address systemic challenges in the SANDF and the Department of Defence. We have introduced operation clean audit which is now a way of life, we have also appointed a compliance officer to ensure daily monitoring of compliance in the DOD. A number of challenges remain in the SANDF, among them inadequate budget, addressing the total condition of service of the soldiers and infrastructure of the SANDF.



Thank you.