While the issue of the signal disruption in Parliament ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) dominated this week’s Justice, Peace and Security cluster briefing, progress was reported in border safeguarding and the military health service.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who chaired the briefing in Cape Town, said Operation Corona, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) border safeguarding tasking, had in the first seven weeks of the year apprehended 3 200 undocumented foreigners, recovered 35 stolen vehicles, confiscated dagga with a street value of R9 million and arrested 55 suspected criminals.
“There are 13 sub-units (companies) deployed to execute border safeguarding in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West,” she said, adding soldiers continued to support other government departments “such as the SA Police Service (SAPS) to execute their work in various areas”.
The border protection function was previously a police tasking but was given back to the defence force.
Mapisa-Nqakula told the briefing government has made “substantial progress” with the establishment of a single entity to manage the entire border environment and all ports of entry.
“This has seen personnel from the SA Revenue Service’s Collaborative Border Management Unit transferred to the BMA (Border Management Agency) project management office under the Department of Home Affairs. This office was set up to promote government’s vision to achieve a new, integrated border management through the BMA. The BMA Bill will be submitted to Cabinet by mid-2015,” she said.
The Defence Minister also used the briefing to provide an update on the findings of the Ministerial Medical Task Team she appointed to, among others, look at employment conditions of healthcare practitioners in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS).
“Some of its recommendations have been implemented and others are in the process of implementation.
“To date, outstanding medical overtime has been paid and is up to date. The occupational special dispensation (OSD) has been corrected to the benefit of all those who had been affected and the improvement of employment conditions has stopped the outflow of health practitioners from the SANDF.
“The Ministerial Medical Task Team also made recommendations that resulted in the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Public Works and the Department of Defence. This will see the Defence Works Formation take over the refurbishment of defence force facilities such as 1 Military Hospital in a phased approach.”
The minister told the briefing that implementation of the Defence Review would “begin in earnest” after Parliamentary processes are complete. The Joint Standing Committee on Defence and Military Veterans is due to have a seven hour meeting in Cape Town today with only one item – the Defence Review – on the agenda.