Letters from President Jacob Zuma tabled in Parliament today clearly show how constitutional provisions were violated during three major deployments of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) last year, the opposition Democratic Alliance party says.
“In each of these cases, President Zuma’s failure to inform Parliament about the details of deployments was the cause of constitutional non-compliance,” party shadow defence minister David Maynier said in a statement. Maynier says Section 201(3) of the Constitution requires that Parliament be informed “promptly and in appropriate detail” by the President whenever the defence force is deployed. And Section 201(4) of the Constitution requires that an appropriate oversight committee be informed if Parliament does not sit during the first seven days after the defence force is deployed.
The three instances of non-compliance are the festive season employment of the SANDF in co-operation with the South African Police Service (SAPS), from November 1 to January 1. “The letter from the Presidency to the Speaker was dated December 15, a month and a half after the commencement of the employment,” Maynier avers. The second employment was of the SANDF in co-operation with the SAPS to safeguard the COP17 climate talks in Durban last month (November 21 – December 11). “The letter from the Presidency to the Speaker was dated December 15… almost a month after the commencement of the employment.” The last employment related to SANDF support for the recent elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (November 23 – December 7). “The letter from the Presidency to the Speaker was dated December 12, three weeks after the commencement of the employment and 5 days after it expired.”
Maynier adds the letters show that Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya “had no idea what he was talking about when he reportedly claimed last week that the festive season deployment of the defence force was authorised by a presidential proclamation made in 2001 or 2002.”
The DA MP says he will be writing to Speaker Max Sisulu to “[demand] that he take action against Zuma for this repeated failure to respect Parliament’s standing in relation to defence force deployments.” It is not clear what Sisulu can do to force compliance or what Maynier can do if Sisulu declines to act.
Maynier adds Zuma also failed to comply with the Defence Act 42 of 2002 in that he did not, as prescribed in section 18(4) of that Act, provide any information as to expenditure incurred or expected to be incurred by the employment of the SANDF. “This is not the first time the President has failed to account to Parliament on such military matters,” Maynier charges.
In September last year DA MP Piet Pretorius in a statement noted Zuma took nine months to inform Parliament of the deployment of the combat support ship SAS Drakensberg in the Gulf of Guinea in January. The party’s deputy spokesman on public accounts said at the time he would seek to “clarify the Presidency’s understanding of what ‘promptly’ means in regards to this specific Constitutional requirement.” It is not known if he did. Pretorius says there were at least eight separate incidents last year in which the President has employed SANDF personnel, but informed Parliament only months later.
This includes authorisation for Operation Copper, the anti-piracy patrol. For that, the President sent two letters. The first, to the Speaker, dated June 17, authorised the deployment of 200 military personnel from April 21. “This serves to inform the National Assembly that I have extended the employment of 200 members of the SANDF for service in Mozambican waters and international waters to monitor and deter piracy activities along the southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.”
The second latter, to Jerome Maake, co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, dated July 20, authorised 377 personnel from April 1. “This serves to inform the Joint Standing Committee on Defence that I have employed 377 members of the SANDF personnel [sic] to the Mozambique coast for a service in fulfillment of international obligations of the Republic of SA toward the Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime security [sic], in order to minimise the threat of piracy and other illegal maritime activities.”
It is not known why Zuma sent two letters to two different parliamentary officials regarding the same deployment but citing two sets of figures and two starting dates.