The defence ministry has rejected a claim by the Democratic Alliance that morale in the military is so low that it threatens national security. “The ministry would like to state for the record that conditions in the South African National Defence Force have never been better,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The bad conditions of service that (Democratic Alliance defence shadow minister) David Maynier refers to that he says is a threat to national security is lies being spread to discredit the SANDF and its leaders for political gain. The morale in the SANDF is very high; soldiers have been deployed recently to the borders. They run 74 hospitals during the public service strike and are making us proud at the borders,” the statement said.
“We reject the lies and ongoing campaign by David Maynier to negatively project the SANDF. It is a known fact that he hates the SANDF and will do anything to bad mouth and spread lies about the organisation,” it said.
Maynier, in the National Assembly last week, quoted from what he said was a leaked interim report by the interim national defence force service commission. “And just so we know how serious things have become, let me begin by quoting from the conclusion of this report, which reads: ‘There is a clear need for a wide variety of matters to be attended to. Some of these matters, if not addressed immediately, are likely to further affect the morale of troops and could even threaten state security’,” the South African Press Association reports him as telling MPs.
He also repeated his assertion that defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu had misled both Parliament and the country by withholding reports from the interim commission on the matter. “The defence force, and the men and women who serve in [it], are in deep trouble. But rather than sharing information… with the people’s representatives, information about the defence force has been hidden.
He said the reports will show “not only that the defence force is in deep trouble, but that the minister misled the Speaker, misled this Parliament, and misled the people of South Africa”.
The reports are at the heart of a drawn-out row between Maynier and Sisulu, who this week demanded through lawyers he withdraw his allegation that she had misled Parliament, or risk High Court summons for defamation. Sisulu has for months insisted that she would only release the interim commission’s final report once it has gone to Cabinet. Maynier has noted she received the report last year and that her failure to take it before Cabinet smacked of delaying tactics.
This led to an unprecedented stand-off with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, but the minister prevailed after securing the support of government leaders, the Speaker and the ruling party.
Last month, Sisulu ended her speech in support of the National Assembly adopting a Defence Amendment Bill by what was seen as an attack on Maynier. “…those who did not support the Bill and been very vocal in misleading the public, the same public will in time understand that your motives in the committees [sic] have been deliberate and treacherously unpatriotic.”