Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has pulled the plug on defence industry sponsorship of military conferences by ordering the Department of Defence not to accept such gestures anymore, Business Day reports.
The business broadsheet last week reported that the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association, at the behest of the department, had called on its members to sponsor a week at the Zimbali Golf Estate for the Military Command Council for at least R20 000 each. “This raised fears of a conflict of interest between military decision makers and the companies potentially in line to supply military hardware to the South African National Defence Force,” the paper said.
Adding to disquiet over the issue was that Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu organised a parallel meeting of the Defence Secretariat Council over the same period at the same venue, resulting in a second request for another R100 000 sponsorship from the defence industry.
A statement by the department on Friday said Sisulu had given instructions that the department “should not accept sponsorship from the defence industry for the session. The minister wishes to acknowledge the industry for their support, but felt it inappropriate for the department to accept the gesture.”
Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier said Sisulu “should be complimented” for stopping “sponsorships from the defence industry for the senior military leadership’s “work session” at the ultra-luxury lodge. “However, what still needs to be explained is why the defence department did a U-turn on the ‘cash for access’ scandal. The defence department previously held that sponsorships were a ‘norm across the public and private sector’,” Maynier said. Now the defence ministry says it is “inappropriate for the department to accept the gesture”.
Maynier adds that the “defence department clearly does not get it. The real question here is whether the generals should be conducting a work session at one of the most luxury lodges in our country when … ordinary soldiers live in squalor in their barracks. This seems to me to be a complete failure of judgment on the part of the senior military leadership.” He said that Sisulu “should go further and cancel the work session at Zimbali Lodge”. As far as could be determined on Monday, the Zimbali conference is currently underway.