Defence Amendment Act tabled

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Bill 11 of the 2010 legislative season has been tabled in the National Assembly. The Defence Amendment Bill will amend the Defence Act of 2002 by changing the employment framework of the Reserve Forces as well as institutionalising the new Service Commission.

Cabinet approved the Bill for tabling in late March. A previous Defence Amendment Bill was tabled in May 2008 but was then withdrawn.

The headnote to the current Bill reads that the legislation will “require members of the Reserve Force … to enter into a contract of service with the South African National Defence Force” and “will require members of the Reserve Force to comply with a call-up order to report for duty”.

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 defence or a state of national emergency. A memorandum attached to the Bill notes Reserve Force members currently serve on a voluntary basis or render service in terms of a contract. “The members of the Reserve Force are only obliged to serve during time of war, a state of national defence or a state of emergency. Currently not all members of the Reserve Force have entered into or are required to enter into a contract of service with the SANDF, and as a result this creates problems with regard to planning,” training and peacetime deployments.
“The Bill seeks to make it clear that all Reserve Force members are required to conclude a contract of service with the Defence Force. Such contract will set out the periods of service that a Reserve Force member is liable to render. To ensure that Reserve Force members present themselves for service when required to do so, the Bill provides that these members must comply with a call-up order. The Bill also seeks to authorise the Minister to extend the period of service of Reserve Force members, with the concurrence of the members,” the memorandum says.

The pertinent section reads that where a “Reserve Force member’s period of service terminates,
lapses or expires during any form of employment contemplated in section 18(1), the Minister may, with the concurrence of such member, extend such service for a period not exceeding three months or until the conclusion of the operation, whichever is the shorter.” Reserve Force personnel may currently in peacetime serve for up to 180 days a year.

The Amendment Bill will further establish a “Defence Force Service Commission which is to make recommendations to the Minister of Defence and MilitaryVeterans concerning the salaries, service benefits and other conditions of service of members of the Defence Force; and to provide for matters connected therewith.”



Absent from the Bill is provisions mooted by defence and military veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu in April regarding appointments. Sisulu told Parliament’s defence and military veterans portfolio committee she wanted amendments to the 2002 Defence Act to clarify a mismatch between it and the 1996 national Constitution on who – herself or Zuma – made certain appointments. She noted the constitution said the president as Commander-in-Chief should appoint the “military command” of the Defence Force while the Act only provided for him to appoint the Secretary for Defence (SecDef) and the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (CSANDF). The changes would provide for the president to continue appointing the SecDef and CSANDF in consultation with the minister and for the heads of service – Army, Air Force, Navy, Military Health Service – and likely divisions (Defence Intelligence, Joint Operations, etc) to be appointed by the minister in consultation with the CSANDF.