The Department of Defence apparently outsources guarding services at its headquarters in the Armscor building to the tune of R11.14 million for the current financial year.
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow finance minister David Maynier maintains that this money would be better utilised to fund university fees. He said in a statement re-prioritising expenditure within the existing budget would go a long way to making money available for students to pay their university fees.
The Armscor building is home to the Defence Ministry, Defence Secretariat and the Chief of the SA National Defence Force as well as the state owned defence and procurement agency. Security at the main entrances as well as the secondary entrance and inside the building is undertaken by a private sector security company.
One who would like to see properly disciplined, well turned out soldiers in uniform “not camouflage and boots” performing this duty is military analyst Helmoed Heitman.
“My preference would be to have military security personnel with a proviso,” he said. This is that those chosen are “outstanding soldiers with the personality and bearing to make a good impression in addition to doing the job of being the security screen for the building”.
He also proposes the alternative of a MoD (Ministry of Defence) protection unit.
“This unit would draw its members from combat unit personnel who are too old for their rank and posts but cannot, for whatever reason, be promoted and who wish to remain in the military family. The focus has to be on good soldiers, not those who would make a joke of the defence force in the eyes of visitors.
“This unit could also protect other defence force installations and perhaps provide a core of regular personnel for national key point protection, to be supplemented by the Reserve Force in time of crisis.”
He is well aware this type of unit would cost but points out “it would allow us to treat old soldiers decently while replacing them in combat units with younger personnel”.
As an interim measure he suggests replacing the private sector security personnel at the DHQ/Armscor building with soldiers.
“A properly turned out, self-disciplined sergeant with a couple of similar soldiers at the main gate and visitors gate and a sergeant-major at the main entrance to the DHQ side – all in decent uniforms, not camouflage and boots, would make an outstanding impression.
“And if we did it right, we would not have the situation of visitors – me for example – finding no one to let them out of the building after a late meeting,” Heitman said.