Defence policy review ready: Sisulu


An update of South Africa’s 1996 White Paper on Defence and 1998 Defence Review has been completed and is now ready for Parliamentary and public discussion. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu on Wednesday showed MPs a blue lever-arch file that she said contained the paperwork.

She now awaited a call from Members of Parliament on the matter. “We promised to deal with a number of issues of policy review and we have done that,” she said in her annual budget vote. “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.”

Various ministers of defence have promised an update since 2004 but none have reached Parliament. Helmoed-Römer Heitman, the dean of South African defence writers has said that various efforts have been made over the years, with the latest produced just before Sisulu’s appointment. But this, he says, “blithely skipped over core strategic issues, ignored already approved army and navy force designs and contained errors of fact.” Heitman wrote in Janes’ Defence Weekly in April last year that the draft had been written “by advisers with naïve notions of international politics and little understanding of defence and who focused on peripheral issues.”

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu in her second annual budget in May last year noted major changes, “both dramatic and evolutionary, have taken place in the defence environment over the past 15 years. The policy review and strategy would of necessity take this into consideration and will be informed by a clear-eyed assessment of what we want our foreign policy to achieve, the potential threats facing us, and socio-economic interests in what is a very uncertain era of growing competition among new major powers. The new environment requires new thinking and new approaches,” Sisulu said.
“We had a Defence Workshop [in] March 2010 to review the work done in this respect and are of the view that we need to give this added impetus. I can confirm that the Review Team will deliver the final product by December 2010. The onerous assignment of leading our Review Process has fallen on retired Lieutenant-General Motau,” she added. “None could be better placed to drive this process. It will enable to do long term planning in terms of force levels, force structure and equipment needs.
“For the SANDF (SA National Defence Force) and particular the SA Army to remain successful, it will have to take into account the complexities of African politics. The size of the continent, its geographic and climate complexity, as well as the lack of transport infrastructure, problems engendered by economic under-development and the diverse military challenges it may encounter, will necessitate the SANDF to be well and appropriately equipped and trained for both its external and internal roles as prescribed by the Constitution.”
“We also promised that we would deal with the vexing question of the repositioning of the Secretariat of Defence,” Sisulu continued on Wednesday. “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.”