Unabridged statement: Minister of Defence: Service Commission final report


Statement by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans L Sisulu on the occasion of the handover of the report by the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission

Madam Deputy Speaker,

On 24 August 2010 you summonsed me to your office to discuss the report of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission and you insisted to both myself and the Leader of Government Business that the finalisation of the report should happen speedily.

I gave my word that we would comply and I am now able to confirm to you that after an initial extension requested by the interim Commission, this morning I had the honour and privilege of receiving the Report of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.

It is important at this point to remind ourselves of the purpose of the objective of this exercise, and perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. The concept of the Commission owes its existence to the policy intention of my first Defence Budget Vote which I delivered to this Parliament on 3 July 2009.

I stated 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.”

I emphasise this, as it is so often deliberately misinterpreted in some circles. The intention to establish the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission was expressed long before that shameful conduct by a small ill-disciplined faction of the Defence Force at the Union Buildings on 26 August 2009.

It should be obvious then that we were alive to the challenge of addressing the concerns of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after years of neglect by the Honourable Lekota. These steps precede the whimper that has emerged from some in the opposition benches.

Madam Deputy Speaker,

The interim Commission was established on 9 September 2009 after Cabinet’s approval of the creation of the new dispensation for the Defence Force. The brief of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission was clear cut and spelt out in their terms of reference.

These are to:
1.advise and make recommendations on a unique service dispensation outside the ambit of the Public Service;
2.advise on the regulatory framework for the unique service dispensation; and
3.investigate and provide advice on remuneration and conditions of service of members of the SANDF.

The interim Commission was advised to deal with these terms of reference as short term, i.e. legislation and the long term, which is what we have today.

The Commission dealt with three separate terms of reference, each stands alone and separate from the other. I introduced the Commissioners to the Portfolio Committee, because the short term item they were dealing with involved the drafting of legislation.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission for the sterling work they have done. They not only criss-crossed throughout the length and breadth of this country interviewing various stakeholders, they also found time to benchmark their work by visiting the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Russian Federation to learn from other countries international best practice on a number of matters.

I trust that in time we would benefit from the lessons and insights derived from these visits. They have done us proud in contributing to the effective and efficient management of the Defence Force as it fulfils its constitutional mandate.

Madam Deputy Speaker,

The work done by the interim Commission is outstanding. Their dedication and commitment is clearly shown by their hard work in producing the report that they handed to me this morning.

It is now my honour and privilege to acknowledge members of the interim Commission and use the opportunity to thank them most sincerely for their hard work, commitment, tenacity and single-mindedness in the midst of the noise.

The interim Commission consists of people of outstanding calibre who brought a great deal of integrity with the work that they have done. It consists of men and women who have distinguished themselves in their own way. These members are:

Judge L O Bosielo – Chairperson

Mr A Ismail – Deputy Chairperson

Lt-Gen (ret) L Moloi

Maj-Gen (ret) B H Holomisa, MP

Ms H Mgabadeli, MP

Mr P J Groenewald, MP

Dr A Mokgokong

Professor R Christie

Mr Z T Ngcakani

Bishop M Mpumlwana

In their handing over of their report this morning, it was touching to hear them say that it was an honour to serve the nation. They have stressed that the report is a foundation of their observations and should be regarded as work still to be completed by the permanent commission.

Appointing members from such diverse backgrounds allowed us, for the first time in this dispensation, to have a birds-eye view of the SANDF since 1994. The observations therefore span a period of 15 years.

The importance of the Commissioners is that they are drawn from disparate backgrounds, two of whom are members of opposition political parties, showing that the responsibility of the Defence Force cuts across political lines. There was a deliberate effort to include members of the opposition political parties on the interim Commission to draw a wide range of experience as possible.

It must have been very hard for these members to listen to the distortions of their hard work. The SANDF is a national asset and these members understood that they can be an effective opposition, but still contribute to the good of South Africa, contribute to ensure that the sovereignty of our country is in good hands.

Madam Deputy Speaker,

I would like to say to the Leader of the Official Opposition that when your member [DA MP, David Maynier] stands here to selectively quote on on-going work to create an impression of “time bombs” that exist somewhere in his imagination, then it begs the question where he was when all the changes were made to the Defence Force in the past 14 months.

Together with the interim Commission we worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of the soldiers. The most important fact that he established in this House is that he was not part of the changes that took place.

There are always two choices in life: You are either part of change or work against it. Your member has chosen the part of working against changes in the most shameful way.

This is an opportunity for South Africans to see that patriotism transcends petty party politics and Commissioners have given us a rare glimpse of how this is possible.

The handing over of the Report completes two of the policy directives that were part of the Terms of Reference of the Interim National Defence Force Commission – establishing a new dispensation. The bill to this effect was passed before this parliament on 26 October 2010.

The Report will undergo the normal process of it being submitted to Cabinet and then to the Speaker of the National Assembly. As I have stated before, Parliament would have an opportunity to read the recommendations emanating from this report.

Finally, I am glad that members of the Commission agreed to serve in the interim Commission and would like once again to thank them. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Chief of the SANDF and Chiefs of Services and Divisions for their cooperation with the interim Commission. A big thank you also to the members of the SANDF for expressing confidence in the interim Commission.

This matter has now come to a close and the public will be the judge on the outcome of the process.

Issued by: Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans, November 16 2010