Cabinet approves defence bills


Cabinet has approved the Defence Amendment Bill for tabling in the National Assembly as well as the establishment of the National Defence Force Service Commission.

The Defence Amendment Bill will, among other issues, create a new dispensation for Reserve Force service and will allow the South African National Defence Force to mobilise such personnel in peacetime, compelling employers to release such staff for military service and compelling such reservists to report for duty. Neither is presently the case.

The 2002 Defence Act abolished conscription introduced by its 1957 predecessor and only allowed for the compulsory mobilisation of the Reserves in case of war or a State of National Emergency. This has made training and peacetime deployments difficult however, as there is no mechanism requesting reservists to serve under such circumstances. Employers are often also reluctant to release staff and currently cannot be compelled to do so. Furthermore, Reservists away for up to six months do not currently enjoy job security during their absence.

The Defence Amendment Bill was previously before Parliament in May and June 2008 but was then withdrawn.

The Department of Defence’s Strategic Plan for 2010 to 2013 shows other Bills headed for the legislature include the much-delayed Military Discipline Bill to reform the Military Disciplinary Code, the Military Veterans Affairs Bill to “give full effect to the expanded mandate of the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans and to provide for matters incidental thereto; and the National Defence Force Service Commission Bill “to establish the National Defence Force Service Commission and provide for matters incidental thereto.”

One Bill that has fallen off the table is the Draft Bill on Establishment of Military Ombudsman thatwas before Parliament in April 2005. Also still awaited from the DoD is he regulations of the Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Act 27 of 2006.