Democratic Alliance defence shadow minister David Maynier was ordered out of the National Assembly yesterday afternoon by Speaker Max Sisulu after refusing to withdraw a statement in which he accused Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu of “telling a big political fib” to Parliament.
Maynier has in the last two weeks taken to reading extracts from a leaked copy of an interim report by the interim National Defence Force Service Commission to the National Assembly as part of an apparent campaign to have the document and another by the commission released into the public domain.
The documents were compiled last year and sketched a dire situation in the South African National Defence Force with its state of combat readiness is “not quite as good as it should be” and morale so low it “could even threaten state security”. The reports were at the centre of a tug-of-war between the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans generally and Maynier particularly on the one hand, and Sisulu on the other, during deliberations preceding the recent adoption of the Defence Amendment Bill.
Maynier argued then and now that the committee needed the commission’s reports to properly debate the Bill. Sisulu disagreed. Maynier yesterday continued his crusade, saying, according to the Mail & Guardian and the South African Press Association, “one of the many reasons in the minister’s arsenal of excuses was that there was ‘no link’ between the interim reports and the Defence Amendment Bill.”
The pugnacious DA MP said the “fact is there is a link between the interim reports and the Defence Amendment Bill. “The primary objective of the Defence Amendment Bill was to establish a permanent Defence Force service commission.” He told his fellow MPs he had found that the interim report recommended the establishment of a service commission and several pages were devoted to recommendations covering the appointment, terms of reference, functions, staffing and reporting responsibilities of the proposed commission.
Maynier went on to tell Parliament that the “real clincher” was that the interim report contained a draft Defence Amendment Bill, the M&G said. “How is it possible that an interim report, which contains a draft Defence Amendment Bill, is not linked to the Defence Amendment Bill?”
“The fact is that the minister has been caught out telling a big political fib to this Parliament. And [the] minister should now take steps to stop the bleeding and hand over the interim reports to this Parliament.”
Deputy Minister of Basic Education Enver Surty than raise a point of order, questioning whether it was possible to “attack the integrity of a member of this House without bringing about a substantive motion”. Sisulu then said he would study the matter and come back with a ruling. At the end of members’ statement time, he delivered one, SAPA reported.
“Saying the honourable minister of defence and military veterans told this Parliament ‘a big political fib’ is tantamount to saying the minister lied to Parliament – a serious charge, and one that is definitely unparliamentary, and in this case, without any substantive motion,” he ruled. He then asked Maynier to withdraw the statement.
“Speaker, with respect, I refuse to withdraw the statement,” Maynier told him, and was then asked by Sisulu to leave the chamber, which he did. The M&G noted he “was then escorted from Parliament.”
“I’m not exactly sure how long I am expelled for but I think it is a day,” Maynier told the M&G.
In a statement issued later in the afternoon, DA Chief Whip Ian Davidson said the party stood fully behind Maynier and his statement. “The DA stands fully behind … Maynier …, and the comments that he made in Parliament today regarding Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s handling of the national defence force service commission report.
“…Maynier’s expulsion from Parliament, by Speaker Max Sisulu, is unacceptable. It is Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s behaviour that is unparliamentary, and warrants rebuke. “Minister Sisulu has repeatedly been uncooperative with Parliament, contravening her constitutional duties to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency.” Davidson said it was only fair and right that such conduct was brought to Parliament’s, and by extension, the South African public’s attention.
This is just the latest spat between Maynier and Sisulu. The defence ministry last Friday rejected Maynier’s statement of November 4, reproduced below, in a media statement as “lies being spread to discredit the SANDF and its leaders for political gain.” It added morale in the SANDF was in fact “very high; soldiers have been deployed recently to the borders. They run 74 hospitals during the public service strike and are making us proud at the borders.”
The intemperate statement added: “We reject the lies and ongoing campaign by David Maynier to negatively project the SANDF. It is a known fact that he hates the SANDF and will do anything to bad mouth and spread lies about the organisation,” it said.
Last month, Sisulu ended her speech in support of the National Assembly adopting a Defence Amendment Bill by what was seen as an attack on Maynier. “…those who did not support the Bill and been very vocal in misleading the public, the same public will in time understand that your motives in the committees [sic] have been deliberate and treacherously unpatriotic.”
Members statement in the National Assembly by DA MP David Maynier, November 9 2010:
Speaker, the hon Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, seemed to blow a political gasket last week. [Interjections.] This followed revelations about the state of the Defence Force read out in this Parliament. The Minister switched to rapid fire and released two press statements trying to persuade us that all is well in the Defence Force. However, the interim report of the National Defence Force Service Commission paints a different picture.
On combat readiness, the interim report found that it is possible that the level of combat readiness in the SA National Defence Force, SANDF, is not quite as good as it should be. On service conditions, the interim report found that salaries of junior members are totally inadequate and force them to live in informal settlements far from their places of work, and that the effects of transport costs significantly dilutes their income, leading to social, psychological and family crisis.
The salary situation is so poor that some members state that they would rather have their right to vote revoked in lieu of nonpayment of personal income tax. The housing allowance is regarded with ridicule at R500 per month because it cannot serve to cover bond repayments and members are not able to get bonds through the commercial banks, given their poor salary levels.
There have been improvements in the Defence Force and some of these improvements are credit to the Minister, but we have a long way to go. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Source: Unrevised transcript, Parliament
Members statement by Democratic Alliance MP, David Maynier, national assembly, parliament, November 4 2010:
Speaker, the Defence Force and the men and women who serve in the Defence Force are in deep trouble. Rather than sharing information about the Defence Force with the people’s representatives, information about the Defence Force has been hidden from the people’s representatives.
The hon Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, has refused point blank to hand over the interim reports of the National Defence Force Service Commission, and there is now no prospect, in my view, that the Minister will hand over the interim reports. So, I have decided to do the right thing and begin to read extracts from one of these reports in this Parliament.
Just so we know how serious things have become, let me begin by quoting from the conclusion of this report, which reads: “There is a clear need for a wide variety of matters to be attended to. Some of these matters, if not addressed immediately, are likely to further affect the morale of troops and could even threaten state security.”
Now, how is it that we are in a situation where the military itself could threaten state security? Using successive member’s statements, I will read extracts from the interim report, and these extracts will show not only that the Defence Force is in deep trouble but that the Minister misled the Speaker, misled this Parliament and misled the people of South Africa. [Interjections.] The fact is that these interim reports should never have been hidden and I will not allow it to be hidden. [Time expired.]
The SPEAKER: Hon member, your time has expired. Order hon members!
Source: Unrevised transcript, Parliament