An indication of the priority rating, or lack of it, attached to the Defence Review comes from Shadow Defence and Military Veterans Minister David Maynier who told defenceWeb that as of today, 11 official Parliamentary questions on the review and associated matters asked by him have not yet been replied to.
The more than 400 page Defence Review is seen as the precursor to a new White Paper on defence that will prescribe the form of South Africa’s military for at least the next 20 years. It will also guide equipment procurement and be a valuable planning tool for the local defence industry.
Former Defence Minister Roelf Meyer was asked by then Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in July 2011 to review the current defence policy and present a document setting out the way forward.
Meyer and his six member committee, supported by a six-strong resource group, embarked on a national tour to obtain input from not only the defence and military sector but also civil society. Hundreds of meetings and engagements later, they produced the draft Defence Review, beating the deadline set by Sisulu, who said she wanted it to be tabled in Parliament by October 2012.
The Parliamentary deadline passed without the Review being seen by the national legislature. This was at the time ascribed to the arrival of Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in the Defence and Military Veterans Ministry with the outspoken Sisulu moved to Public Service and Administration.
Since then Meyer and his co-committee members have done more reworking of their document following meetings with the then new Minister as well one with President Jacob Zuma, Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
That the Defence Review has to make it to Parliament has also been pointed out by Peter Groenewald, FF+ spokesman on defence. He noted that both the Department of Defence’s annual Strategic and Performance Plans make reference to it.
“If it is not approved or at least debated initially there will be no progress in creation of an SANDF capable of doing what government wants it to do down the line.”
In October defence analyst Helmoed Heitman, who is also a member of the Review committee, told defenceWeb the document has gone “about as far as it can”.
The Review’s lack of progress through official channels he said is “a real problem”.
“The strategic situation in Africa is changing quickly – and for the worse – while the SANDF is stuck with the old 1998 Defence Review force design and National Treasury intent on enforcing that, despite the obvious requirement to increase force levels and add certain capabilities, no more funding comes to the military.”