Six priorities for defence in 2011/12: Sisulu

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Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu has listed six priorities for the military in the current financial year. They are entrenching a new service dispensation, improving service conditions in the South African National Defence Force, rolling out a National Youth Service, maritime security, the revitalisation of the Reserve Force and repositioning Armscor and Denel.

Giving her annual budget vote in Parliament today, she said regulations were being prepared in terms of last year’s Defence Amendment Bill to migrate SANDF personnel from the oversight of the Public Service Commission. “The legislation was passed and has been promulgated,” she said. “In line with the requirements, we are preparing the regulations that will lay the foundation of this dispensation. We expect these to be completed soon. This dispensation will not be an event that we will have to have a way of phasing in, as we phase out the old in a manageable and structured way.
“Fortuitously it comes at a time when we have completed our improved grievance process and at a time when we are ready to table the Military Ombudsman Bill, which Ombudsman we envisage will be appointed jointly by Parliament and report to Parliament,” Sisulu added.
“This also comes at a time when we have taken the decision on the future of the unions in the National Defence Force. We will be tabling legislation in this regard and to deal with this matter, so that I do not continuously have to answer the perennial question from yourselves about why we are still allowing unions in the National Defence Force. We have taken the political decision. The decision will be in your hands, as the legislature to implement; you have the mandate and the power. The third of this threesome package of bills will be the Military Discipline Bill. All three bills are ready and I hope we can prioritise them.
“We are working on a progressive realisation of improved conditions of our soldiers, in part attended to by legislation outlined above and by the [Interim National Defence Force] Service Commission. As mentioned earlier, we are taking over from the Department of Public Works our right to attend to the accommodation of our soldiers. We are stuck with the budget that we have. However, we have resolved to be prudent with our resources. We have imposed stringent austerity measures in our system. Further, we are working on ways of maximising our assets to benefit our need for decent accommodation for our soldiers. Our assets are the land we own and the Defence Works Capability.
“We have just concluded an audit of Defence Endowment land and properties. We received this last week and, just in passing, it was shocking that we could not find all the information of land and properties which presumably, after years of neglect, has been taken advantage of. Nonetheless, the point is, we have the outcome of the audit and we know the value of what we own. The next phase would be an audit of land that we own, but is in the custody of the Department of Public Works. We intend to put this land to productive use, primarily in partnership with the private sector and our Works Regiment, to build accommodation for our soldiers.
“The accommodation of our soldiers is an urgent matter. This year we will deal with it as a mega Defence Works project and next year we will have completed a significant number of units of accommodation by the time we report back.
“We believe there is a great potential here, both for the partnership and for the revitalisation of our Works Regiment, for the creation of jobs and for the main product, decent accommodation for our soldiers and their families. This is ten years overdue and we are dealing with a huge backlog. The roll-out of the Works Capability will also enable us to maintain and repair our facilities,” Ssulu said.

Turning to a National Youth Service, as announced in her budget vote last year, Sisulu said the “world has recently had a rude shock from the events in North Africa and woken up to the fact that our stability rests on how we respond to the aspirations of the youth. South Africa has been alive to these challenges long before it was fashionable. The President was the first to direct our attention to the demographic and political challenges of a youthful country. Long before anyone ever imagined there would be trouble in what was considered safe countries of Tunisia and Egypt.”

President Jacob Zuma in his state of the nation address last year February said “everything we do must answer the needs of our youth. Unless we appreciate this reality and unless we understand its implications, we will not be able to make the correct policy choices and pursue the most appropriate development path.”

Consequently, Sisulu says, “we had proposed the establishment of the National Youth Service to respond to this gargantuan challenge to exploit the untapped and sometimes misguided youthful exuberant energy. In doing so, we have sought wisdom from a wide range of countries that have National Youth Programmes and have teased some of the best practices for our own benefit. We claim no monopoly of wisdom. It is for this reason that I sought advice of some of the best minds in the country to assist me in crafting the conceptual framework for the National Youth Service. The draft policy is here and will be presented to the Portfolio Committee.
“We have received overwhelming support for this initiative, so overwhelming in fact that we had to take a step back to ensure we have the proper policy guidelines to accommodate this. We have completed the first working draft of our policy on our National Youth Service, which will be presented to the Portfolio Committee at the earliest opportunity.
“Consistent with our policy to work with other ministries and departments, I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the first pilot of the National Youth Service programme with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. This is work in progress and we hope to learn from experience as we continue to refine our thoughts and practice as we prepare to launch the full-scale programme over the next year. We now have a disciplined, committed core of youth in our rural areas working for development. Gainfully engaged patriots.”

Addressing maritime security, Sisulu said the “defence and security of South Africa is inextricably linked to that of the region and the continent. Being a littoral country, South Africa needs to have a balanced maritime capability to effectively respond to arising maritime security threats affecting South Africa. This will focus on deterring piracy and other maritime illegal activities along the southern Africa Coast on the Indian Ocean, in particular the Mozambique Channel, following reports of piracy activities off the Mozambique coast and parts of Tanzania. There are therefore outcomes of a bilateral arrangement between the South African and Mozambique Governments. Hitherto, efforts are undertaken to consolidate and present a regional strategy towards eradicating the scourge of piracy in the Southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.”

On the revitalisation of the Reserve Force, Sisulu noted the Defence Amendment Act made provision for “Reserve Force members in terms of their call-up to perform various duties during peacetime. It also makes the failure to render service when called-up, without a valid reason, an offence. Part of our revitalisation of this sector has been the call-up of up to 16 000 Reserve Force members. The implementation of these Reserve Force members’ legislative provisions shall be given effect through the applicable regulations to be implemented during the course of the current financial year. The SANDF has developed a strategy on the transformation and revitalisation of the Reserves that will now be supported by this legislation.
“A matter that I have committed to address appropriately is that of the South African Cape Corps (SACC), which was disbanded during 1992. Discussions in trying to restore the dignity of the affected members are currently underway as part of an integrated approach in addressing the pride of Military Veterans in the country,” Sisulu said.



Turning to the repositioning of Armscor and Denel, the minister said the “restructuring of the defence industry will focus on defence capability, the interactive framework and function alignment in order to properly synchronise these with the requirements and mandate of the National Defence Force. The emphasis should be on governance, risk management, compliance and accountability framework applicable within the defence portfolio.
“As we commit ourselves to ensuring we can live up to our promises, we need to also celebrate our successes. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved and my sincerest gratitude to all who have contributed to these significant achievements. … Finally, and most importantly, to the uniformed and non-uniformed members of the department, you have done me proud in the past year. I want to assure you that your welfare and your concerns are what drive us. Because we demand nothing but the best from you, we commit to nothing but the best for you.
“You have freely, willingly committed yourselves to a profession that requires you to put the country first. We demand nothing less from you. For us, you are first – expect nothing less.”