Defence Review still awaits Parliamentary airing


The hard work and onerous hours put in by Roelf Meyer’s Defence Review Committee in meeting the tight deadline set by previous Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu appear to have become entangled in Parliament’s bureaucracy.

A statement issued by Parliament indicates the Defence Portfolio Committee has called on the Department of Defence to table the Defence Review before “the end of the Fourth Parliament”.

While no further details are given the fourth – and current – Parliament will be dissolved ahead of next year’s national elections. With past national elections generally having taken place around the end of the first quarter of the calendar year, this document can only make it onto the parliamentary agenda during either the remainder of this year’s parliamentary sessions or even those taking place next year before dissolution.

This is in stark contrast to the urgency expressed by Sisulu when she appointed Meyer and his team in July 2011 to review the status and operating mandate of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). The committee was tasked to look far and wide and include the views of ordinary South Africans on what they want “their” defence force to look like in the future. The local defence industry and its importance not only to the general security sector but also as part of the national economy was also part of the responsibility given to Meyer’s seven-strong committee, supported by a six member resource group.

It was given until October last year to complete its task. This included comment received during public participation meetings as well as input from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), industry, and security oriented think tanks such as the Institute for Security Studies. Sisulu indicated, before she was moved to the Public Service and Administration portfolio in a mid-2012 Cabinet reshuffle, that she wanted the draft review to be tabled in Parliament the same month.

With a new Minister at the helm, this did not happen. Meyer met with defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on at least two occasions to discuss the review committee’s work and the way forward. Following one of their meetings he said she requested a number of technical changes to the 428 page document.

Mapisa-Nqakula earlier this year indicated the Defence Review would make it to Parliament before the end of the current financial year.

The Parliamentary statement, issued following Defence Secretary Dr Sam Gulube’s presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence, indicates possible budget cuts during the coming three financial years could “cripple” operations in the Department of Defence and Military Veterans.

Committee chairman Stanley Motimele, according to the statement, said it “seemed” there was no proper plan on how the defence budget allocation would be spent.
“The tabling and implementation of the Defence Review might assist in increasing the budget allocated to the Department (of Defence),” he said.

The Committee expressed concern that budget cuts would impact negatively on defence operations, including border control. “Unmanned borders could become a national security threat and proper resources need to be allocated to ensure security controls,” Motimele said.

The Committee will now work with the Standing committee on Appropriations and other Parliamentary structures to find solutions and check if it is possible for the National Treasury to increase the Defence Department’s budget allocation.