More than three years after a previous Public Works Minister said the sad state of two military bases in Gauteng would receive urgent attention it appears not much has changed.
This is the conclusion that can be drawn following a visit to the Doornkop and Lenz military bases, south of Johannesburg, by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.
The conditions at both bases, home to the SA Army’s 21 Infantry Battalion, are unsuitable for human habitation. Afrikaans daily Beeld reports the committee saw buildings in disrepair; a shortage of housing; a shortage of vehicles; squatters have moved in to some dilapidated buildings; and poor discipline, including soldiers not reporting for duty.
A report on the visit, due to be tabled in Parliament, indicates a lack of access control and illegal occupation of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) facilities shows just how easily security can be breached.
The committee’s report will also detail how the poor overall condition of both bases, “vehicles that are falling apart” and a shortage of personnel are impacting on not only the image of both bases but also on soldiers’ morale and professionalism.
DA shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier, said after the visit the Lenz base resembled the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
In December 2010, then Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde visited both bases and the Wonderboom military base north of Pretoria to see for herself what facilities and conditions were like.
In a statement issued after that visit she said: “A contractor has been given the go ahead and placed on site to deliver on the promise the Minister made to the military”.
The “promise” was to the SANDF she called “an important, but unhappy client”.
This week’s visit by Portfolio Committee members tends to show that no real progress has been made, especially as far as physical structures are concerned and again brings to the fore a point made by current SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, when he was Army Chief.
He spearheaded the re-establishment of the Army’s Work Regiment so that at least some maintenance and refurbishment of military facilities could be done in-house. The regiment has subsequently grown into a Works Formation, another indicator the military wants to be master of its own fate when it comes to facilities maintenance.
Photo showing the conditon of an ablution block at Doornkop military base from the defenceWeb library.