Managing vulnerabilities in relation to strengths will define the major part of the Defence Review, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said.
“The Defence Review that we have to replace should ideally have had an expiry date, precisely because it was meant as a founding document. It should have been replaced, at the very least, two years after its adoption, in 1998,” Sisulu told a two-day First International Defence Policy Review Seminar held in Cape Town yesterday and today.
“This means we are ten years beyond our expiry date. While our environment evolved, we remained static at a point completely out of sync with our reality. And for the last number of years, we have lived in a different context, with its limitations and errors.
“The document that will ensue from the Defence Review process will have a two phased approach, with a short term and a long term reach. We have arranged this seminar to kick-start a public engagement phase for the Review process. The Defence Review Committee has gone to great lengths to grapple with their responsibility. I have been very impressed with how quickly they settled in and familiarised themselves with the challenges of Defence. I have also in particular been impressed with the passion they have for the work.
“I pity them for the void they will inevitably feel at the completion of such an intense engagement. We have set ourselves a deadline and it will be in our interest that we keep it. It will not be possible for me to place next year’s budget before Parliament if we have not completed our task,” Sisulu said.
She explained the Defence Review will have five parts: First it will address defence policy in its totality, “explaining the history of where we are and where we intend to be.” Secondly, “we’ll deal with the force structure of defence, the command and administration of the defence force, as well as civilian oversight, which will include executive and legislative oversight over the Secretariat and its role.” The third part of the Defence Review process will look at defence capability and defence resources. “How do we hope to achieve our policy objectives, as well as those of government.” The fourth part will deal with the defence industry and specifically its role in support of the defence force and its role in the economy, as well as the necessary arms control instruments. The last portion will deal “with the people and the armed forces and our relations with society.
“The Defence Review process is a re-thinking about the armed forces. What is their role in our democracy, in our society, in our economy. The legal and constitutional responsibilities are clear, but how does that translate into the present realities? We expect the end result to be the product of a broad discussion of how Defence should structure itself so as to be of better effect,” the minister said.
Going into more detail, Sisulu said he document would explain:
1. Changes and challenges in the Global Security Environment
2. National Security Strategy and Defence Policy
3. Defence Structure for Comprehensive Security
3.2 Integrated Civil-Governmental-Defence structure
4. Defence International Relations and Regional Cooperation
5. Improvement of Defence Capabilities
5.2 Force Structure in preparation for future warfare
5.3 Fostering the Reserve Force as Key Combat Units
6. Military Support for Peace
7.2 Defence Human Resource Management
7.3 Strengthening Training and Education
8. Defence and Development of Skills
8.2 National Youth Service
8.3 Defence Research and Development as an Economic Growth Engine
9. Improvement of quality of life
9.2 Designing an advanced Medical Support System
9.3 Maximising employment opportunities for Veterans
10. The Defence Force serving the people
10.2 Defence Policies reaching out to the people
10.3 Enhancing Public benefits and public partnerships
11. Defence Industry
11.2 Arms Control Measures
Humanitarian assistance is an important indication of the new direction of the defence force, Sisulu said. “Even though humanitarian aid has always been a defence responsibility, it has not been covered in our policies or in legislation. This Review gives us the opportunity to ensure this responsibility is covered and consequently budgeted for. The sterling work done by the defence force during the floods that hit the eastern parts of the country and Mozambique in 2000 remains pivotal and unless expressly indicated, remains marginal. So too do the requests for assistance from our neighbouring countries, Mozambique in 2010 and Tanzania in 2011.
“Based on our history, the idea of ‘our boys on the border’ did not sit well with our democratic conscience and we ceded this. But, because of the large scale of crime across our borders, it has been considered essential that the defence force returns to its primary responsibility of ensuring the safety of our borders and by extension, the safety of its citizens. We have thus repositioned our military in line with our assessment of the times.
“The role of the Secretariat has in the past been a very thorny issue. Our assumption of responsibilities for the democratic state was followed by a very strong desire to ensure the subordination of the military to the constitutional political power of the people. The acceptance of a Secretariat in our Constitution was universal. However, those instruments that were introduced for this purpose were ill defined and therefore ill fitted. The role of the Secretariat had to be interrogated and we have to find an answer in the best possible fit. The current situation is not functional and we have suffered a misfit for the past 17 years. The Defence Review should properly contextualise what the intention of the legislature was, take account of its failure and help create an environment that is workable and accountable,” Sisulu says.
“This review would have to enquire into a number of the fundamental assumptions that underpin present policy, including the relationship between the core (defence of national territory) and secondary tasks (such as peacekeeping and support to the police) of the SANDF and the resources that are devoted to each. The SANDF today acts as a force for crisis prevention and intervention rather than preparing to defend South Africa against a conventional or even unconventional onslaught.
In a statement this morning Sisulu’s office said delegates attending the seminar agreed that the defence force must respond to the country’s commitment to the continent, Southern African Development Community and the world. “The seminar agreed that in developing a new defence policy for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in the 21st century policy makers must ensure that the SANDF clearly identifies its role in the country, in SADC, Africa and the world.” They added that accompanying that understanding of the role must be a new design of the SANDF with resources and infrastructure, both human and machinery to achieve that objective.
The seminar noted that South Africa would continue to play a role in stabilising the region, facilitating economic development and being a logistics partner during elections and major disasters. They also noted that the SANDF through its Navy must take a lead in patrolling the SADC waters, the statement added.
The seminar also received a presentation from Ministers from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique on how they see their relationship with the SANDF and the South African defence industry in the region and Africa. Sisulu said the SADC region must work together in research and military equipment developments. The South African defence industry was called upon to be lead in the development of military equipment for the SADC to facilitate defence and military trade in the region.