Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima, the incumbent Chief of Joint Operations of the South African National Defence Force, has been appointed Acting Secretary of Defence (SecDef).
He replaces Tsepe Motumi who has been acting in the post since September 2008 and who was last week appointed director general of the new Department of Military Veterans.
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla announced the appointment this morning at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans. Ministry spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya says Matanzima remains CJ Ops and will act as SecDef until President Jacob Zuma makes a permanent appointment.
Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu last month said Zuma would make the appointment “soon” – before the end of the current state financial year at the end of this month. The president “is comfortable making a choice” at this point after first having had to fill other key seats in the security cluster, notably that of national police commissioner, Sisulu added. “A decision will be announced in due course.” Business Day intimated that she has already made a recommendation to Zuma and that he was “comfortable” with the candidate.
Matanzima was appointed Chief of Joint Operations on September 1, 2007 following the death of incumbent Lt Gen Sipho Binda in a motor vehicle collision a year before. He was previously the inaugural Chief of Human Resources, formally taking command of the HR Division on its creation on January 26, 2007. Prior to this he had been Chief of Corporate Staff. The general was born on February 2, 1953 in Cofimvaba. He matriculated at Jongilizwe High School in 1976 and joined the erstwhile Transkei Defence Force (TDF) in January 1977.
He was commissioned on August 18, 1978 and afterwards qualified as a paratrooper officer. Matanzima reached the rank of Brigadier ten years later and was in 1987 appointed Chief of Staff of the TDF. In 1993 he was promoted Chief of the TDF and Major General. Matanzima transferred to the South African National Defence Force in 1994 and first served on the Joint Military Coordinating Committee (JMCC) that oversaw the integration process of the former TDF and other statutory as well as guerrilla forces into a new, unified military. He was then appointed General Officer Commanding the SA Army’s Eastern Province Command in 1996. In 1998 he was appointed as the Chief of Army Personnel at the SA Army Headquarters in Pretoria. The next year Matanzima was appointed as the Chief of Personnel at Defence Headquarters, Pretoria and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.
In 2000, the SANDF restructured and he was appointed into a newly created post of Chief of Joint Support. In 2004 Matanzima was appointed as the Chief of Corporate Staff until 2005, when he was appointed as Chief Human Resources. The General completed a Senior Command and Staff Course in Ghana and the Defence Studies Course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom. He has been awarded the Commander Class Medal (CCM), Southern Cross Medal (SM) and the Military Merit Medal (MMM).
He obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Public Administration from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and a Masters Degree in Administration from the Christian University of Potchefstroom, now the Northwest University.
A defence industry CE,who asked not to be named welcomed the move. “I believe putting an ex military guy in that position rather than a political appointment. General Matanzima is well known and I think he is the best guy for the job, taking the requirements of the SANDF into account.” A senior executive, and retired general, at another SA defence concern also welcomed the move. “Best thing possible – right person [for the job], the executive, who also spoke anonymously, said. “Fits in with envisaged role of Def Second [sic].”
But the opposition Democratic Alliance party decried the move. “The Secretary of Defence manages the civilian secretariat, is the principle adviser to the minister on defence policy and is the accounting officer for the department,” shadow defence minister David Maynier said.
“… Matanzima is a military officer with an exemplary record and is highly regarded both inside and outside military circles. However, we come from a history where the department of defence in the apartheid era was militarised and controlled by the military. That is why, in order to maintain effective civilian control of the military, a civilian should be appointed as secretary of defence so that defence policy is formulated by civilians and civilians remain the accounting officer and retain the ‘power of the purse’,” Maynier said.
“The fact is that a general in a jacket and tie is still a general, and for that reason Lieutenant-General Themba Matanzima should never have been appointed as Acting Secretary of Defence and should not be appointed as the permanent Secretary of Defence. The appointment of Lieutenant-General Matanzima is therefore wrong in principle.”
Maynier called on Sisulu not to appoint Matanzima as the permanent secretary and to “begin the search for a civilian who is fit for purpose and could be appointed as the permanent Secretary of Defence. We cannot have a situation where we go back to the age of the securocrats and the military ‘colonise’ the civilian secretariat thereby undermining the effective civilian control of the military and our constitutional democracy in South Africa.”