The politicians in overall and ultimate control of South Africa’s military – President and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief Jacob Zuma and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – did not set good examples for those under their command last year.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has not, according to its annual Cabinet report card, been able to give President Zuma a mark higher than an E or an F during his term of office because his performance has not improved. “Instead, every year we witnessed a new low”.
His Defence Minister “fumbled her way to an E, down from a D in 2012”.
The 2013 Cabinet report card points out the Minister’s “failures substantially outweigh her successes” with the official opposition naming Guptagate as one of the five major crises confronting Zuma last year.
“On April 30, 2013, a jet chartered by the Gupta family landed at AFB Waterkloof, allegedly with no authorisation,” the report card said.
“It was carrying 207 guests for Vega Gupta’s wedding at Sun City. The Gupta family, which has clear ties to President Zuma, has maintained throughout they were given permission to land at AFB Waterkloof by the South African government and that they went through the proper channels. Sworn statements made by top government officials indicate President Zuma knew about the landing and his name was used to facilitate this massive security breach.
“Despite this damning evidence provided by statements made under oath, President Zuma unequivocally stated he knew nothing about this illegal landing and that his name was misused. The truth is President Zuma has brought the office of the President of the Republic into disrepute – continuously.
“Incidents like these can only happen because he has created a culture of patronage for the politically connected. This is the reason why a private family can have direct access to members of the executive and obtain permission to land a plane full of wedding guests who have not gone through the necessary security checks to enter the country”.
On the military front, DA Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said the deployment of SANDF personnel to the Central African Republic (CAR), with a final death toll of 15 soldiers, last March was another defence related crisis that should be laid at the President’s door.
“It remains unclear whether President Zuma informed Parliament fully of this deployment. Questions also remain about why our soldiers were sent to CAR in the first place, given the undemocratic regime of Francois Bozize,” she said.
As far as Mapisa-Nqakula’s policy direction to her department and the SANDF is concerned, the report card notes “SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, has never been given an opportunity to brief the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on the combat readiness of the defence force.
“Everything suggests the SANDF is in deep trouble, nowhere better illustrated than by the military disaster in CAR.
“There is a major policy review, known as the Defence Review, underway. Since the appointment of Minister Mapisa-Nqakula the Review has been put on the political backburner. It appears to have been buried somewhere in the Department. This is a monumental failure because in the end the Defence Review’s completion and the SANDF’s successes are inter-reliant.”
The report card also points out Mapisa-Nqakula did not attend a single meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Defence last year and “like her predecessor (Lindiwe Sisulu) is a frequent flyer on military aircraft, having blown more than R13 million on VIP flights”.
The DA maintains the SANDF deployment to CAR where South African soldiers “were left dangling, with hands tied behind their backs, in a deadly firefight because the SANDF was drawn into a battle it could not supply” will be her legacy to the country.
On the credit side of the ledger Mapisa-Nqakula is given credit for tackling delays and cost over-runs at Armscor.
She has, the DA believes, three major challenges facing her. These are to open up the Department of Defence to proper oversight scrutiny; repair the “damaged relationship” between the department and Parliament, and to pilot the Defence Review through Parliament and the Cabinet.