It appears unlikely Roelf Meyer’s Defence Review with be tabled in Parliament before it rises ahead of the May election, even though it is on the agenda for a Defence and Military Veterans Portfolio Committee set down for Friday.
This contradicts what SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief President Jacob Zuma said when he spoke at this year’s Armed Forces Day parade in Bloemfontein last month.
“I am pleased with the overall plan that has emerged to address the various limitations, including on the issues of budgets, currently affecting our ability to take proper care of our soldiers. Much consideration and time has been put in this work as we have now reached the final stages for Cabinet approval.
“It is my view these should be finalised, in the context of the current Defence Review, before the end of the term of office of this government,” he said at AFB Bloemspruit on February 21.
The current session of Parliament, the last of the fourth Parliament of the Republic, is set to end on Friday the day after Zuma is due to answer questions from MPs in the house.
That is the day the Portfolio Committee will deliberate for four hours over a single agenda item – “Briefing by the Defence Review Commission on matters relating to their review of defence policy”.
Former Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, under whose leadership Roelf Meyer’s committee was established to review the national defence policy as regards the structure and operations of the SANDF, the role of the local defence industry and Armscor, the State’s security acquisition agency, wanted the Review tabled in Parliament in October 2012.
Her successor, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, last month said: “The work of the Defence Review Committee is nearing completion. The Review is only awaiting Cabinet approval and if its vision for the defence force is accepted, then this leadership should stand ready for its implementation. The Review will inform the role, shape, design and trajectory of the SANDF for the next 20 to 30 years”.
DA shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier, maintains “there is no prospect the Review will be adopted by the fourth democratic Parliament”.
“This means the SANDF will be in a holding pattern for a significant period, at least until late 2014/15.
“The real problem with the Review is the flawed process. The final document does not contain a fully costed force design with buy-in from all stakeholders, including National Treasury. This I see causing further delays in the adoption process when the fifth democratic Parliament starts work,” he said.
One of the proposals in the Review is to do away with Armscor in its present form and establish an acquisition department reporting to the Secretary for Defence.
The friction between the Minister and the acquisition agency has now reached the Constitutional Court following Mapisa-Nqakula’s summary dismissal of chairman “Mojo” Motau and his deputy Refiloe Mokoena last year. They were reinstated after taking the matter to the north Gauteng High Court. This, in turn, saw an appeal to the Constitutional Court lodged by the Defence Ministry.
The matter was heard on February 17 and judgement has been reserved.
The judgement, when it comes, will come under the purview of the new Cabinet expected to be announced within days of the May 7 elections. This, along with the future of the Defence Review, are now effectively on hold for the next three months.