Defence Review stagnates while Africa’s strategic situation changes

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Roelf Meyer and his Defence Review Committee have done everything asked of them in creating the document that should shape the future SA National Defence Force as well as procurement of equipment for it. But it has gone “as about as far as it can” according to defence analyst Helmoed Heitman, who is also a member of the committee.

When it was first constituted by previous Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, planning was for the Review to be tabled in Parliament in October last year. This gave Meyer and his team 16 months to consult extensively with all players in the South African defence sector as well as the public, via a series of nation-wide consultations. Following this the document was revamped to include all these inputs and revised twice.

More inputs were requested and completed, including those asked for by the Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence force (SANDF), President Jacob Zuma during a meeting with Meyer in August.

Heitman feels there is “a bit of refining, tinkering and editing to do” before a final briefing to Zuma and “perhaps” another to Cabinet in the form of the justice, peace and security cluster.
“The intention was to do all that before Parliament rises (ahead of the Christmas recess) but it is becoming increasingly unlikely.
“This presents a real problem. The strategic situation in Africa is changing quickly – and for the worse – while the SANDF is stuck with the old 1998 Defence Review force design and a National Treasury intent on enforcing that, despite the obvious requirement to increase force levels and add certain capabilities,” he said.

One of the issues raised in the Review is the creation of a new defence acquisition agency reporting to Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube. It would take the place of Armscor.

On the travails the State-owned security acquisition corporation faces, Heitman maintains the only viable solution would be for defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to dissolve the board and start afresh. He also points out the need for a full-time chief executive as Sipho Mkwanazi has been acting in this position since November 2009.
“The new chief executive and a new chief of acquisition (this because the current incumbent is due for retirement) should then work together to set up a Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) as originally recommended in the Review.
“Whether that will happen, I cannot say. The problem is many politically well-connected types will lose at least one of their lucrative rice bowls and that is always difficult,” Heitman said.