DRC wraps up public hearings

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The Defence Review Committee has had its final public interaction marking the end of a long and arduous road that has seen thousands of kilometres travelled and many hours spent gathering information on what the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) should be.

Committee chairman Roelf Meyer has gone beyond his mandate of interacting with the general South African public, the local defence industry, the senior command of the SANDF, NGO’s and think tanks in his quest for as much input as possible, an article prepared for The New Age newspaper asserts. This has seen senior foreign military officers called in to present papers at training seminars, vitally important if the future SANDF is to be able to fulfil its government given mandate.

Committee members visited towns and cities across the length and breadth of the country for provincial imbizos where issues raised ranged from recruitment; the need for the military to be more active in fighting crime; concern about security at national key points, including the Union Buildings; preventing soldiers from going on strike, such as happened in 2009 when a protest in Pretoria turned violent and the possibility of the SANDF setting up satellite offices to allow communities more access to services and information about defence issues.

Review committee media liaison officer Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen said service delivery by government departments was repeatedly raised at provincial imbizos.
“People again and again asked about allocation of houses, how to access social grants; quality and availability of water, electricity and the poor condition of roads. While these items are not strictly in the purview of the Review Committee the comments made will be taken into account when finalising the draft Review for the Minister (of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula).”

In terms of personnel and staffing for the South African military a number of NGOs and institutions were in favour of voluntary national service because the “current staffing model is unaffordable”. Others want a mechanism in place to rejuvenate the full-time component of the SANDF and an effective exit mechanism to make the force more efficient.

To make senior staff, specifically generals, more effective in command and control terms they should be based at unit and regional level rather than Pretoria, where the headquarters of all four arms of service are, was another suggestion.

Following the Soweto meeting yesterday it will be a hectic two week period for Defence Review Committee members and support staff. They have to finish revision of the first draft, including input, for presentation to the Minister by month-end.
“We are on track to do it and then the draft will be tabled in Parliament by the Minister,” Theunissen said.