Cabinet this week approved an extension to the contract of Dr Sam Makhudu Gulube as Secretary for Defence just a week after a call was made for him to be replaced as the accounting officer for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
The call was made by retired general Bantu Holomisa, now leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and an MP, when he addressed a civil military relations conference in Pretoria.
He told the conference visits to military bases around the country as part of the Defence Force Service Council’s work had brought to light “there was too much bureaucracy and it was in conflict with military culture”.
“Given this situation Parliament may have to review this area and perhaps consider making the Chief of the SANDF [General Solly Shoke] its accounting officer. This will eliminate the situation where the Minister [Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula] has to waste her time to mediate between the Secretary for Defence and the SANDF Chief,” Holomisa said.
The extension to Gulube’s contract was made public by Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, following the Cabinet meeting earlier this week. No indication is given of how long the extension is for.
Gulube was named as Secretary for Defence in December 2011 and had previously been advisor to the Minister of State Security.
Holomisa was adamant Parliament “must demand to be kept abreast” of South Africa’s involvement in African Union and United Nations peacekeeping operations as well as the country’s “involvement in conflict situations before troops are deployed”.
“Instead of being briefed in the National Assembly, we read of military deployments in the paper and then, after the fact, parliamentarians get the information in annual reports. This is not good enough.
“To make matters worse there are examples where Parliament only gets roped in once things have gone wrong. This happened when the South African government, in 2013, assisted Francois Bozize in the Central African Republic and 13 of our paratroopers were killed in Bangui.
“For Parliament to fulfil its oversight mandate it is important it has timeous and sufficient information. This demands transparency on the part of the Department of Defence, the Minister and the military’s top brass,” he said.
Holomisa also added his voice to the growing number speaking out about the lack of funding for the South African military machine saying there is “a persistent disconnect between the defence mandate, government’s expectations and the allocation of resources”.
“It appears there is a lack of understanding of what our defence priorities are with the Executive and National Treasury willy-nilly cutting the military budget without applying their minds. When statements are made such as ‘the staff complement of the SANDF should be reduced by 10 000′ one cannot but wonder what research such decisions are based on.”
He maintains there should be no problem funding a defence budget that is two percent of GDP.
“Government departments wasted R35.2 billion in the 2015/16 financial year on consultants, travel, catering and entertainment. The call by the Minister of finance for financial discipline should be heeded and wasteful government spending must be stopped.
“Political decision makers should open their ears and listen when military commanders warn South Africa’s defence budget is insufficient. Parliament has a role to play in ensuring the budget is adequate so South Africa’s defence requirements are accommodated.”
Holomisa sees MPs being the champions of the SANDF’s cause and wants the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) to be “more assertive in championing the cause of our servicemen and women”.