Defence Review on Parliamentary hold at least until mid-August


Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is on record as saying the 2014 Defence Review is all that will keep the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) going operationally but her hands are tied when it comes to ensuring speedy passage through Parliament for this vitally important document.

“The Review has been tabled in Parliament and we have no control over the Parliamentary programme or which committees the Speaker and chairman of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will refer it to,” the defence minister’s spokesperson Joy Peter said.

The 400 plus page document prepared by Roelf Meyer and his committee members, including a resource group, sets out the first roadmap for the SANDF since the 1998 Defence Review. It is far-reaching and, in certain instances, critical of the existing structure of South Africa’s military machine as well as the entities that supply it with equipment, systems and weapons.

At present the only sure thing is that the Review will not make it to any Parliamentary committee before August 15. The national legislative body is in its first recess since the fifth Parliament of democratic South Africa was constituted after the May election.

Mapisa-Nqakula has pointed out that some of the Defence Review’s recommendations can be implemented without having to spend money but the continued under-funding of the country’s military machine means more funding has to be allocated to the Department of Defence and Military Veterans.

This was pertinently put by Defence Secretary, Dr Sam Gulube, who told MPs: “There is a persistent disconnect between defence funding, growing defence commitments and resource allocation to the point where the SANDF is unable to fully fulfil its Constitutional responsibilities and is hard-pressed to continue and maintain its current level of commitments”.

The Minister put it in even more basic language telling MPs there was “no choice”.
“We have to respond with urgency to put plans in place to arrest the decline within the current five years, starting immediately in this financial year. The longer the neglect is perpetuated, the greater the effort, time and cost it will take to arrest the decline,” she said.

But it appears those in charge of the business of Parliament do not feel the same way as the Minister and the most senior civilian employee in the Department of Defence. There has been no official statement from SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, on the Defence Review’s slow progress through the Parliamentary process, particularly in view of the fact it was supposed to be tabled in Parliament as far back as October 2012.