Second draft of Defence Review ‘like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’


The changes made to the second draft of the Defence Review are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as the SANDF is planning for a conventional war against South Africa by a non-existent enemy, according to the Ceasefire Campaign.

During an address on the second draft report of the Defence Review following the Ceasefire Campaign’s Annual General Meeting in Johannesburg today, the organisation’s Rob Thomson said that the report has been rearranged to look like “a bowl of spaghetti” but it says much the same thing as it did before.

The first draft was made public in April 2012 by then-Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu. Following consultation with current defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Secretariat Council and the Military Command Council, a number of changes were made to the second draft, which was released earlier this month.

Some notable changes between the two drafts involve force design. In the first draft the South African Army was to include a rapidly deployable brigade. That has now been upped to a rapidly deployable division. Additional maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters as well as ships are now called for (three of each aircraft and three maritime patrol vessels versus two of each originally).

When the first draft came out, the Ceasefire Campaign raised a number of concerns, such as the militarisation of the youth, a more militarised state, new weapons purchases and the inaccessible technical language of the report. However, one of the biggest criticisms was that the 2012 report was not reviewing the period since the 1998 defence review was published. Other concerns raised were that the Ministry of defence did not present alternative approaches to defence and did not say what the budgetary implications of the Defence Review were.

Thomson said that the Ceasefire Campaign has identified 56 failures off the Defence Review. He said that some of the more pressing problems include the failure to consider the possibility of shrinking or even mothballing the South African National Defence Force; the failure to recognise that military security is in competition with human security for budget allocations; the avoidance of discussion of the possibility that the SANDF could ever become a security threat to South Africa; the failure to quantify the personnel needed for the defence force and the use of language that is inaccessible to civilians.

Thomson said the 2012 Defence Review fails to account for the cost of acquiring new weapons, something which may exceed the cost of the 1998 Strategic Defence Procurement Package (aka Arms Deal).

Ceasefire said that the Defence Review “makes unfounded references to the use…of the figure of 2% of GDP as being a ‘reasonable amount’ for a country such as South Africa to allocate to military spending.” Thomson quoted Professor George Harris, who said that, “The appropriate level of military expenditure should be based upon an objective assessment of the threats we face and the amount of insurance we want to take out. The amount of insurance we want to take out in terms of military expenditure depends on our attitude towards risk and our ability to pay for the insurance.”

One of the things that has been addressed in the second draft of the 2012 review, according to Thomson, is the acknowledgement that future acquisitions will become obsolete. This has been addressed by a discussion on the cost of maintaining new equipment.

Ceasefire is opposed to the Defence Review’s suggestion that arms exports be expedited through the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) and suggested that arms exports should be more carefully controlled by the NCACC to avoid selling to countries with bad human rights records like Saudi Arabia, Columbia and Algeria. Another issue was the lack of mention of South Africa’s stance on treaties that regulate weapons like cluster munitions or South Africa’s status of participation in the Convention on Conventional Weapons or the Arms Trade Treaty.

A further issue is the way the Defence Review “treats protests as illegal activities and justifies the deployment of the SANDF against them, as well as against civil disobedience.” However, Thomson said that this has been addressed in the second draft and the “offending paragraph has been deleted”.

In conclusion, Thomson said that 44 of the 56 failures of the first review identified by Ceasfire have not been addressed by the second draft, while three have been inappropriately addressed, eight inadequately addressed and one point properly addressed.

The Ceasefire Campaign made several recommendations, including that the draft report be amended to include Ceasefire’s suggestions; that an additional chapter be added summarising contributions by civil society; that a panel of advisers be appointed to pursue matters not dealt with by the Committee; that instead of the proposed National Youth Service, a peace corps be established outside the Department of Defence; that increases in military spending and the acquisition of new equipment be delayed until the report of the panel of advisors has been received and that, pending the outcome of the Seriti Commission, no offset agreements or industrial participation agreements should be entered into for arms exports or purchases. One of the more demanding changes was that “The Ceasefire Campaign recommends that instead of transferring ownership control of Denel to the Ministry of Defence, the responsible closure of Denel should be pursued.”

The advisory panel proposed by Ceasefire would contemplate a number of issues, including the reconsideration of the threat-independent approach of the draft report; alternative defence methods; the scaling down or mothballing of the SANDF; the transfer of non-military services provided by the SANDF to other government agencies; a cost-benefit analysis of spending on military security against spending on human security, and the presentation of options and recommendations of increases in military spending and decreases in military spending.

The panel would also quantify threats to South Africa, the force structure and design needed to meet threats using the military and the cost of meeting such threats.
“The draft report is a recipe for the militarisation of South Africa’s democracy,” Thomson said. “However, the Ceasefire Campaign has submitted to the Committee that, if the recommendations made in our submission are approached with an open mind and seriously considered by the Committee, its failures will be mitigated and South Africa may be saved from committing itself to a downward slide towards military rule.”
The second draft of the Defence Review 2012 can be found here.
An overview of the second draft of the SA Defence Review 2012 can be found here.