Mpumi Mpofu new SecDef

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President Jacob Zuma has appointed former transport director general Mpumi Mpofu the new Secretary for Defence (SecDef).

Mpofu’s contract with the transport department, extended for a year in October 2008, ended last September. She had been DG there since 2005. Before taking up this position she was DG of housing, part of her tenure there overlapping with current defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who was housing minister from April 2004 to May 2009.

She has been a member of the Gauteng Development Tribunal, a board member of the National Housing Finance Corporation, a board member of the SA Housing Trust and is on the board of the Mvelaphanda Group. Mpofu has a BA and a postgraduate degree in town planning from Coventry University. She has been married to former SABC CE Dali Mpofu since 2004.

Mpofu replaces Acting SecDef Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima who was temporarily appointed to the post just last month. At the time it was said he would act for about three months. Speculation was rife that he would then be confirmed in the post. Matanzima, also Chief of Joint Operations in the SA National Defence Force, replaced Tshepe Motumi who had been acting in that post since September 2008, when incumbent SecDef January Masilela died in a vehicle crash.

Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu in February said Zuma would make the appointment “soon” – before the end of the financial year that ended March 31. 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 at the time. “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.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party was uncomfortable with Matanzima’s appointment,saying it placed him in the awkward position of being accounting officer of the DoD and equal to the Chief of the SANDF, General Godfrey Ngwenya, while, as Joint Operations head, remaining his subordinate. DA shadow defence minister David Maynier says he is, however, surprised by the move. “The expectation was that Lt General … Matanzima would resign his commission and would then be appointed as the permanent Secretary of Defence. So, Mpumi Mpofu appointment comes as a big surprise.
“The most important question here is whether … Mpofu has the ‘right stuff’ to turn around the defence department. The fact is that she has no defence experience, and the defence department is in a huge mess. This inevitably raises questions about ‘fitness for purpose’ but hopefully … Mpofu will perform well and begin to close the ‘capability gap’ within the civilian Secretariat of Defence. We will know soon enough,” Maynier added.

Defence analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman agreed, saying Mpofu was taking “over a department that is in deep trouble, and specifically a Secretariat that is in deeper trouble, and has absolutely no background in the subject herself. I really do not see the logic. We set people up to fail, and their departments with them. I would have preferred … Matanzima to remain in the post for a full term, while we could focus on educating and training up some senior civil servants for the Secretariat, one of whom could then have taken over.”