The official Parliamentary opposition and South Africa’s largest military trade union are up in arms about the apparent disinterest shown by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) chairman regarding the country’s latest peace support intervention.
Jerome Maake reportedly dismissed a proposal for a special hearing on the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) participation in the UN intervention brigade to be deployed in the DRC.
David Maynier, shadow minister of defence and military veterans for the opposition Democratic Alliance party, maintains Maake turned down his request for a special hearing because the JSCD cannot say whether the SANDF can deploy or not.
“The fact is Parliament does have the powers to terminate the deployment of the SANDF in terms of Section 228(5) of the Interim Constitution and Section 18(5) of the Defence Act,” the former submariner said, adding “it seems to be yet another poor excuse for Maake to protect the Department of Defence from proper oversight and scrutiny by Parliament”.
Similarly Sandu (SA National Defence Union) national secretary Pikkie Greeff said if Maake was correctly reported he was taking an “irresponsible and ridiculous position”.
“Sandu is perturbed by Maake’s view that the JSCD cannot tell the SANDF where to deploy.
“He is either flagrantly defying the Constitution or he is ignorant of it. His attitude represents a disturbing trend by the same committee to dodge its responsibilities as demonstrated recently when legitimate questions by Parliamentarians were met with threats and complaints, its members having to catch planes instead of discharging their oversight duties properly.
“Either way his remarks effectively propagate castration of the Parliamentary oversight function regarding SANDF deployments,” he said.
SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga has confirmed South African will be part of the UN’s new DRC intervention brigade. He said details of manpower and equipment would not be disclosed in the interests of “security” around the brigade and its operations.
Maynier maintains Parliament and all South Africans need to know the SANDF will not be part of a peacekeeping mission in the DRC.
“Our soldiers will be conducting offensive operations to neutralise and disarm rebel groups in the eastern DRC. It is a peace enforcement mission and the SANDF will be taking part in a high risk mission where there is not only a serious risk of casualties, but also one of being sucked into a regional civil war.
“This makes it imperative for the JSCD to carefully evaluate the proposed deployment and I will continue to push for a special hearing,” he said.
Both men have expressed their dissatisfaction with information released about South Africa’s now ended deployment to the Central African Republic (CAR) that saw 13 crack members of 1 Parachute Battalion come home in bodybags.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is scheduled to address Parliament on the CAR deployment on April 23.