Remarks by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu at the 2010 budget vote media briefing, Imbizo Room, Parliament, May 4, 2010
Firstly I would like to thank you for the partnership we have built over the year, since our last budget speech on July 3, 2009 a lot has happened. When we look back at that speech and the priorities we set for ourselves we are pleased that the journey to build an SANDF that is loved and admired by all has begun. We are also confident that the systems we have put in place are beginning to take effect, and we know where we are going.
As you all know that this afternoon I will deliver the 2010 DOD and Military Veterans Budget Vote I thought I must come this morning and share with you some of our priorities. We will focus on some of the issues we will cover in the budget speech.
Before I deal with the issues of socio economic development and skills, I thought it appropriate to start with the obvious – what defence is all about.
Defence derives its mandate from the constitution and also from the electoral mandate given to the Government of the day. In our case this translates to the following:
· Defence of the country and protection of its people by means of deterrence.
· Support of foreign policy – assisting in peace support operations.
· Support to other departments of state – support to the police, border protection, disaster or emergency relief
The political mandate, the ANC has committed itself to is:
Crime, reduction of poverty, unemployment, provision of health and education.
These are all inter-related challenges.
Those who are desperately poor and those who are unlikely to have access to education are likely to be exposed to unhealthy conditions, poverty and remaining unskilled and unemployed.
There is little doubt that one of the greatest challenges to South Africa today is unemployment and poverty. This in turn contributes to criminality. Thus there is complementarily between the Constitutional mandate and the electoral mandate.
The Government has been correct to identify employment and job creation as a priority. But we know that this will remain a pipe dream for as long as the majority of our people remain unskilled.
Even before we can deal with how defence can become part of a social agenda and a contributor, it might be necessary for me to take a step back to reflect on the commitments I made when I was appointed the Minister of Defence.
Uppermost in my mind was the need to re-position defence as a place that can provide skills, but then I had to first address the conditions and restore and morale of the members of the SANDF. In this regard I commit myself to:
Addressing the conditions of service …I said then that “We are acutely aware that the state of readiness of the SANDF depends primarily on the morale of our soldiers.”
I went further to state that; “we are considering making a request for a separate dispensation for the Department of Defence that would allow us to creatively deal with our own needs and the specificities of our own unique security requirements.”
In pursuance of this objective we put together an expert team of people to advise us on the issues of remuneration and other aspects of conditions of serve.
Secondly, recognizing the unique nature of the defence force, we also requested for a separate dispensation for defence. Progress has been made in this regard, and, as a result of the work of the Interim Commission, soldiers have already benefited.
Thirdly, with regard to the separate dispensation, a draft bill will be written to establish the Military Service Commission.
The second issue we sought to address, is the issue of crafting policies that would speak to the unique nature of defence.
We have made strides in coming up with the most progressive policy on HIV/Aids with regard to deployment of troops.
We have also participated as a defence force in us being part of the solution to deal with crime.
In the last year we have also deepened our bi-lateral relations with a number of countries on the Continent.
To appreciate the contribution our military veterans have played, we have put together a task team lead by the Deputy Minister to provide recommendations on the setting up of a Department of Military Veterans. This Department was launched last Friday and a DG has already been appointed.
This year the SANDF successfully assisted the SAPS in securing the Confederations Cup Soccer an event that is seen as a trial run to the World Cup Final.
The SANDF conducted a number of force preparation exercises in preparation for the forthcoming FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup. 13 matches were simulated over 4 days from 23-26 April 2010 in all the host cities and stadia. A mixture of Gripen, the Hawk, Pilatus and Augusta A109 aircraft were used to patrol the venues during the exercise to ensure compliance.
We had set ourselves a very ambitious programme.
We have taken the first step to restore the credibility of the military as a profession. That will require clear focus on competence, discipline and integrity. We will pay attention to issues of transformation. The armed forces of any country must broadly reflect the make-up of the population if they wish to enjoy the respect and support of their nation.
But as some defence experts have correctly pointed out that “the battlefield, the laws of aerodynamics and the sea are all three equal-opportunity killers: They care not whether you are white, black, male or female. Either you are competent or you die – or, if you are a senior officer, others die.”
Training, competence, and excellence are the pillars that guide our business. Soldiers, for their part, deserve competent and honest officers to lead them: That is all they ask – competence and integrity. To give them less is immoral. We expect them to risk their lives; we owe them the best leadership we can provide.
To this end, we are engaged in addressing some of the critical issues that relate to personnel, including salaries, to deal with the following:
· The massive drain of pilots and technical personnel
· The impending retirement of many highly experienced senior officers, whose replacements may lack operational and service experience
· The difficulty in recruiting enough people of the right calibre to meet future requirements, which will become more serious as the economy develops.
· The difficult to maintaining and rejuvenating the reserves.
The most critical issue that we are focussing on is education. As everyone knows, the progress of any nation can be no swifter than its progress in education.
In a country bedeviled by unemployment and skills shortages, we have massive skills training capabilities and have tested this through our Military Skills Training Programme. We want to expand this programme to cater to private sector industries and government departments. We are investigating how to harness the skills training programme to generate additional revenue for the Defence Force, developing a concept of opening the programme to other government departments and the private sector. We are looking at various ways in which certain responsibilities can be self-sustained. As we have stated before, the demand for a well trained, multi-skilled, disciplined and well-equipped Defence Force as a critical lever of the developmental agenda of Government is a reality that cannot be left to chance.
Military skills that make great CEOs
I am pleased that business and the private sectors have woken up to value that military training provides. The days in which military veterans were met with apprehension and suspicion are waning. In the United States, the military has become the new face of leadership. According to the April Fortune Magazine, leading companies look to the military to recruit leaders. In hiring junior officers, Wal-Mart, one the largest retail stores discovered that it had struck human resources gold. This follows closely on a two studies by Harvard and MIT economists Efraim Benmelech and Carola Frydman and a 2006 project completed by the executive search firm Korn/Ferry.
They project and the study identified the following as key attributes that distinguishes military veterans from their civilian counterparts.
· Leadership grounded in real world experience
· CEOs who have chosen to hire those with military experience admire the “military’s ability to deal with ambiguity, a skill honed by the wars”. They note that to accomplish their missions, leaders in the field had to adapt and improvise, at times making it up as they went along. In war, changing the paradigm has become routine.
· The military teaches puts a premium on an organization’s obligation to fulfill its social contract. It’s not just winning that matters in the business world, it’s how you win.
Nearly all of the CEOs interviewed in the Korn/Ferry study preferred a military background to an MBA when appointing a young person to lead a department.
Accreditation of education programme
We are encouraged by these studies. And we remain committed in ensuring that Defence is part of the Skills Development National Imperatives. We have initiated discussions with relevant stakeholders within the Department. We will soon be establishing a Task Team (inter-ministerial) to look at a broader picture involving skills acquisition and development. In this regard we will pay attention to the initiatives in the department with the sole aim of looking at what has been achieved and not achieved since our commitment.
The issue of skills needs a careful attention. It is not simply about putting people into programmes. We need to ensure that the skills provided are those required by the economy. As members know, universities have not gotten it right. They are not producing enough graduates to meet the challenges of our economy. As a result we have a peculiar phenomenon of a high graduate unemployment in the midst of a skills crisis. We will not add to this anomaly hence our cautious approach in dealing with this matter.
We must also ensure that our programmes are of the quality we can be proud of. One of the effective ways of ascertaining this is to subject our programmes to a quality assurance exercise. To this end, I expect the Task team to visit, investigate and report on each of the Services and Divisions. The report should address, inter alia, the following;
1. Which structure coordinates the DOD education and training development? What is its preparedness (a) for producing a PLAN for leading, directing, coordinating and monitoring a ETD program (b) regarding ‘resources (c) expertise/skills base or Required Operational Capability?
2. How many DOD ETD programs and training institutions are accredited in each of the Services and Divisions?
3. How many have not been accredited? For those not accredited what are the impediments?
4. How many ETD instructors / practitioners / managers, and b) Career Managers have qualifications transversally accredited under the ETD Organising Framework for Occupations ie in their professional homes?
5. Provide a comparative survey against other military organizations on Skills Development (regional, continental or international).
6. Given the high youth unemployment figures in the country, what youth Labour Market Entry Enablement programs does each of the Services and Divisions have?
We remain committed to building and fostering a new Defence Force; a Defence Force that can thrive and grow to ensure that we can protect our hard won democracy; a dispensation where the State can invest in the development of the Defence Force and the young people who are drawn into this noble calling; a Defence Force that can recapture and rekindle this spirit of patriotism, selflessness and a love for the people of our country; and above all, a Defence Force whose morale and discipline is equal to the development of our country, one whose dedication will inspire.
Today we are also making history with the first broadcast of our internal television channel, Defence TV, over 10 000 soldiers will watch the budget vote live through this channel.
The Channel is also broadcasting our new series called “In Your Defence” which plays on SABC 2 at 21.00pm, this initiative is part of our efforts to introduce careers and opportunities in the SANDF to young people.
Many of you have not seen a Gripen or Hawk, you are invited to join us for the full SANDF exhibition at Ysterplaat Air Force Base after the Budget Vote.
I thank you.