Sisulu seeks stability in defence appointments

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Defence and military veterans minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she is keen that stability and expertise be key criteria when making appointments in her department and the South African National Defence Force.

Speaking to journalists at Makhado last week, she said that in “the defence force it is also very important that whatever changes there are, are measured. A sudden change in the defence would cause a rapture that would be detrimental to us.”

She added that while top appointments were the prerogative of President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, “change must be measured and staggered, with a phase-in and a phase out.
“It’s not something we will rush into because the stability that is created by the people who held the fort the last couple of years is invaluable for us as a country. We have one of the best defence forces for a middle income country, and it has been kept together by the kind of command structure we have. To lose it would cause irreparable harm. I am extremely grateful for the work they have put in. these are people who have been tested over years and what they have given us is solid commitment and solid expertise,” she added in answer to a question to pending new appointments, including a new Chief of the SANDF when the already-extended contract of the incumbent, General Godfrey Ngwenya, expires. “But I’ll refer that matter to the president and suggest we might want some certainty…,” Sisulu added.

Earlier this month Sisulu told Parliament’s defence and military veterans portfolio committee she wanted amendments to the 2002 Defence Act to clarify a mismatch between it and the 1996 national Constitution on who – herself or Zuma – made certain appointments. She noted the constitution said the president as Commander-in-Chief should appoint the “military command” of the Defence Force while the Act only provided for him to appoint the Secretary for Defence (SecDef) and the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (CSANDF). The changes would provide for the president to continue appointing the SecDef and CSANDF in consultation with the minister and for the heads of service – Army, Air Force, Navy, Military Health Service – and likely divisions (Defence Intelligence, Joint Operations, etc) to be appointed by the minister in consultation with the CSANDF.

Sisulu added that a phase-in; phase-out approach was, in fact, already in place. “I don’t want my answer to create insecurity. What we have decided to do is to use a staggered approach. For example,we have a new Secretary for Defence who is designate because we want to make sure she understands the environment she is dealing with, because it is a particular environment and very sensitive in terms of command and control and there needs to be a level of confidence and trust in that command and control for anything to work.”

Former transport and housing director general Mpumi Mpofu was appointed SecDef earlier this month but will only fully take over the portfolio on June 1. Sisulu the same will apply for other appointments: “When we have anyone else from the defence force we will make sure there is a phase out while we phase in because the integrity of the system is very important to us.”



Pic: Sisulu with spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya