SA defence level should be identified and developed – Modise

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In her first foreword to a Department of Defence (DoD) annual report, Thandi Modise acknowledges “a view needs to be developed on what level of defence South Africa needs” as well as identifying five primary defence imperatives.

These are safeguarding the nation, securing regional development, ensuring “hard power”, protecting the country’s “intangible sovereignty” and nation building.

The Defence and Military Veterans Minister, who marked the end of her first year in office on August 8, does not elaborate on the imperatives apart from some brief explanations. These include a peace and security capability, “speaking” to deployment of “robust forces” and supporting the African Union (AU) peace and security architecture on regional development. “Hard power”, Modise has it, is via maintenance of a “core combat capability” to protect South Africa’s sovereignty while national intangible sovereignty comes from supporting the “National Cyber Resilience Initiative and ensuring defence digital protection”.

On nation building, Modise sees contributing to the national development imperative by way of “high impact projects”, developing “appropriate” future defence leaders and being innovative in “conducting defence business” as what her department can bring to the table.

Safeguarding the nation she summarises as military missions, with border safeguarding, maritime security, support to the SA Police Service (SAPS) and other ordered internal operations.

Modise’s foreword acknowledges compensation of employees (CoE) in the DoD and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is “a grave priority area which must be addressed”. To this end, the foreword has it she approved a ministerial directive on 31 March 2021 [not possible, as she was only appointed five months later]. The directive aims to “implement human resource cost saving measures to down-manage CoE cost pressures over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period (sic)”.

The Minister uses her foreword to inform readers she is “concerned about the state of financial and resource management” in the DoD. We need to demonstrate to our key stakeholders, the Auditor-General South Africa, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and National Treasury we are serious about the way we go about our business. The DoD must demonstrate to these stakeholders our intent regarding good governance, accountability and consequence management in the DoD.

“The key to unlocking appropriate governance and accountability will be leadership at all levels in defence,” she avers.