Sisulu upset by “ticking time bomb” report

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Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says she is highly upset by a report to Parliament describing the staff situation in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as “a ticking time bomb”, and has declared that it has no legal standing.

The report — by the interim national defence force service commission last November — came a few weeks after an illegal protest march by serving soldiers on the Union Buildings in Pretoria had turned violent and looting marchers had to be dispersed by police with force, Business Day reported
“While Sisulu told Parliament’s defence committee that the oral report by interim commission chairman Judge Ronnie Bosielo had no standing because it had not been served before her or the Cabinet, the situation was deemed so serious that in early December she announced unprecedented salary increases,” Business Day reported. [In fact, the increases were announced by President Jacob Zuma on December 16. Ed.] Bosielo and his commissioners had in November shocked MPs with descriptions of soldiers’ living conditions as “sub-human” and an opinion that if the situation was not dealt with urgently “it would be regretted”.

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier had asked Sisulu why the “ticking time bomb” report had not been tabled in the committee and when this would be done. Sisulu responded that the report was a breach of protocol because the committee had been briefed before she was — “it was most unfortunate and I was upset”. Maynier then asked if such an interim report could be made available to the committee before it sat in judgment on Sisulu’s budget vote. She responded it was work in progress and she could not say when.

Sisulu also informed the committee that she would soon be bringing urgent changes to the Defence Act to Parliament which would allow the compulsory mobilisation of the Reserve Force at any time. Currently the Act only allows for the compulsory mobilisation of reserves in case of war or a state of emergency. Sisulu told MPs the plan is to use the reserves to help safeguard SA’s borders. Notoriously porous, the securing of SA’s borders was taken from the military and given to the police in terms of a 2003 Cabinet decision, but that decision was reversed last year.

Another amendment to the law affects senior appointments. Sisulu said the constitution and the act were “mismatched” because 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 will 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.