Military Veterans: incorporation into Department of Defence & Researchers’ Five Year Review

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Defence and Military Veterans

09 June 2009
Chairperson: Mr M Booi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Acting Secretary of Defence briefed Members on the current situation of the Department of Defence, and the integration of military veterans into the Department. He focused upon the setting up of a task team, who would be tasked with looking at the structure, the reporting lines and the accountability of the new entity within the Department. Representatives from several divisions within the Department, from the South African National Military Veterans Association, and the Department of Public Service and Administration would be included on the task team. Members asked questions about the classification and verification of military veterans, the need to establish the numbers of those who would qualify, the need to integrate them properly into society, and the need for a cash injection to facilitate the process. Further questions related to whether there would be any Constitutional or other legal difficulties from the proposed incorporation, the accountability issues, and the budgets.

The Parliamentary Research Unit then tabled the Five Year Legacy for the information of all Members. This outlined the structure of the Department and its key issues. Members asked questions during the presentation to clarify a number of points, including why border control policies were now listed in those issues, whether it was necessary to continue with the update of the Military White Paper, what policies may or may not be included in that Paper and the inadequacy of funding. It was pointed out that there was a tension between internal Defence Force activities and international peacekeeping projects, which were under the control of the Presidency, and which often diverted the budget away from other pressing Departmental needs. It was also indicated that the Department still needed to implement the Court ruling on HIV-positive members of the Defence Force and to track and assess the amount spent on training of the Military Skills Development System.

The Department of Defence gave a short briefing on the general budgetary procedure. The Parliamentary Researchers tabled a report commenting upon aspects of the budget. Because of the lack of a Strategic Plan from the Department, Members were urged to focus upon questions that the Department should answer. Some of the issues were identified as the decrease in the Defence Force employment budget, seen against the need still to promote peace and stability in the region and on the Continent, the implementation of the defence update without an indication of detailed costing, whether the increase in the budget for Military Skills Development Systems was sufficient to cover its expected expansion, and whether the increase in the land forces budget was large enough to make a significant contribution to the planned modernisation. Other issues that needed to be clarified included how the budget would facilitate the retention of skilled members in the Defence Force, any allocation that might deal with the lack of a strategic plan, which was in itself worrying. The significant increases and decreases per programme were tabled and compared to previous years.

It was noted that the budget would be presented on 17 June, and the Department would confirm whether the Minister would be available to address the Committee on 23 June.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that this meeting was intended as an information session for the benefit of the numerous new Members who might not be familiar with the issues of the Department of Defence (DoD), and to inform them of the work of that Department during the past five years. Members were likely to have many questions and it was important that all issues be fully understood and fully informed. He noted that the Acting Secretary of Defence was present to answer questions.

Acting Secretary of Defence briefing
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Acting Secretary of Defence, noted that the inclusion of the military veterans as an integral part of the DoD had come as something of a surprise, but that the Department would ensure that it was able to implement the President’s vision for the Department. The Minister had directed the establishment of a task team responsible for the creation of the new ministry. This task team would determine the structure, shape, reporting lines and the budget required for the new ministry. It would concentrate on deciding whether the division dealing with military veterans should be an independent division, with its own accounting officer, or whether it should fall under the current Director-General. The task team would be comprised of representatives from several entities of the DoD, such as the human resources division, the Directorate of Military Veterans, the Finance division, the Defence Committee, and the budget and planning division. Further representation on the task team would come from the South African National Military Veterans Association (SANMVA) and the Department of Public Service and Administration, which was the oversight and regulatory Department in charge of processing all new ministries. There would also be the opportunity to co-opt other relevant entities or organisations to assist in the process.
The task team would be operating on a tight timeline. In order to proceed with the budget adjustment it would need a firm indication on the budgetary implications, including all figures leading up to the 2010 budgetary year. The Ministry of Defence and Military Veteran’s (Ministry) strategic business plan needed to include the Military Veterans. This plan was a three year document, and therefore it was crucial that the military veterans entity was included and evaluated on a monthly basis, although not in as detailed a manner as the other entities. The DoD had also engaged with the National Treasury in the context of a budget renewal Committee to focus on the Security Cluster, since the formation of the new Ministry had clear budget implications.

The bid around inclusion and establishment of the military veterans was a priority. A key element for the task team was to examine and coordinate actions relating to military veterans across the different Government Departments, including those of Social Development, Water, and Housing. Once an analysis and appraisal of the provincial, national and local authorities was done, the task team would look at how to streamline and harmonise actions. This would also have an impact on deciding whether the role of the military veterans’ entity was to deal with implementation, or with policy formation, monitoring and evaluation. These were some of the key aspects. One of the first tasks that was awaiting the task team was to elect its own Chairperson, most likely someone from the SANMVA, since it was an established organisation dealing with relevant matters. A progress report would be delivered to the Committee before the Parliamentary recess in July.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked if the Acting Secretary was genuinely surprised by the restructuring of the Department. He also asked if the task team had been given a deadline and if there had been any progress in the process of verification of Military Veterans.

Mr Motumi responded that although he knew that the Government was concerned about the issue of the Military Veterans, he was genuinely surprised that it was brought into the Ministry itself. In terms of timelines the task team simply had to do what it needed to and then disperse, since members of the task team were non-permanent. Exact timelines still needed to be established, but it was obvious that the aim was to reach completion as soon as possible, but without cutting any corners. Finally, the verification process of military veterans was one that the entity had to undertake beyond the existence of the task team, which could only set up the relevant structures.

The Chairperson noted that the financial situation of the DoD was serious, and asked if the Department was relying on the current budget to fund the integration of the Military Veterans. He questioned whether it would be feasible to bring in another accounting officer. There was already both a Secretary and a Chief of Defence, which had caused tension and immobility for the operations within the Department, and he questioned the implications of adding yet another civilian structure to the running of the Department. Finally, it needed to be clarified if the term “military veterans” was reserved for those participating in World Wars I and II, or if it included those who had participated in the liberation struggle.

Mr Motumi said that there was currently there was no budget for integrating military veterans into the Department, since the current allocation considered only a Directorate of Military Veterans. It was therefore clear that the Department needed a cash injection to implement the establishment of the new Ministry. He noted that the concerns about perhaps introducing a separate accounting officer to deal with Military Veterans would be investigated by the task team. Veterans were not part of the Defence Force, and could not be treated as if they were. The task team had to look at reporting lines and accountability, although the Minister would take the ultimate political responsibility. He pointed out that the Department of Public Service and Administration, for instance, had one Minister and two Director Generals, so this was a model that might be used. Another possibility was to establish a separate agency under the same political Minister. There were different models that needed to be looked at. 
Mr C Gololo (ANC) asked for further clarity around the military veterans in the task team that would be engaged in analysing the local, provincial and national government policies, and asked what exactly it was to coordinate.

Mr Motumi said that the task team would be looking at previous initiatives and policies relating to military veterans in all relevant Departments. The entity of Military Veterans within the DoD would look at different needs. However, the implementation of all relevant policies would fall to other departments as well, such as, for example, the Department of Housing. If the Military Veterans entity of the DoD was to implement all the aspects of the identified needs there would be an unnecessary duplication of tasks. For this reason the entity would be focusing on policies, evaluation, and coordination.

The Chairperson said that it was important to clarify whether the inclusion of the military veterans into the Department of Defence had any Constitutional legal implications. Members should be made aware of all these points. There had been no written report from the Department to clarify what the Department was speaking of. Because the DoD and the Committee were accountable to the public, it was vital that Members fully understood the expectations before giving their support.

Mr Motumi responded that the mandates of the SANDF and the Secretary of Defence were clearly defined in the Constitution. The roles and functions of the military veterans and Defence Force were also spelled out. There would be no legal implications of the upcoming integration.

Mr L Tolo (ANC) pointed out that it was important to look at the military veterans’ role in society. He said that it was unfortunate to note that, certainly in the Western Cape, many criminals such as hijackers were in fact well-trained ex militaries, although they were not necessarily from South Africa. Many veterans were confused and disillusioned on their discharge from duty, and The Department must regard their integration into civil society as a matter of vital importance.

Mr Motumi agreed that the reintegration and care of military veterans must be a matter at the core of the Department, and this had in fact been outlined in former President Thabo Mbeki’s State of the Nation Address in 2008.

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) offered his understanding of the term “military veteran” as including those who were retired from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as well as those who were involved in the liberation movements, for example members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). He added that If it were not for those people many of the Committee members would not have been where they were today. Many of those who were previously MK were now unemployed and were not part of government at all. 

The Secretary said Mr Mlangeni was correct. The Defence Act gave exactly that definition of military veterans and it was on these grounds that SANMVA was created.

Mr Maynier pointed out that although the concept of military veterans had been clarified there still remained the issue of verifying who filled these criteria.

Mr J Lorimer (DA) added that this issue was especially important when deciding on the budget, since the number of people involved carried large budgetary implications.

The Chairperson noted that the verification processes in the past had not been able to produce a reliable figure, and that was why the number had been left open for now. However the point raised by Mr Lorimer was correct, as the number of people was crucial information when budgeting. Since some people fraudulently claimed to have been part of the struggle in order to qualify for pensions it was essential to establish reliable verification processes.

Mr Gololo asked if there was an age requirement when establishing who qualified as a military veteran.

Mr Motumi answered that the definition was clear. Ability to qualify for recognition as a military veteran was not based on age but on the numbers of years served. Initially there had been a cut off point, but this had resulted in the unfair exclusion of a large part of people who spent a substantial amount of time involved in the liberation struggle.

Mr Maynier asked if the first meeting had been scheduled for the task team. This question did not seem to have been answered

Five Year Legacy Report: Parliamentary Researchers briefing
Ms Maggie van Niekerk, Parliamentary Researcher, outlined the clusters of key sections within the Department. It was noted that the DoD was different to other Departments in that it required a civilian oversight, with the Secretary of Defence in charge of finance, while the Chief of the SANDF was in command of the Defence Force.

The Chairperson interjected that it was important to ensure that the inclusion of the military veterans into this structure did not add more tension. This was one of the major challenges ahead.

Mr Maynier noted, on comparing the old and new key issues, that border control was one of the new issues, and asked on what grounds this issue was included.

Ms van Niekerk answered that from 2003 the Defence Force personnel were gradually removed from the borders. After the election in 2004 until 2008, border control was not a key issue. Recently, then-Acting President Motlanthe had signed an instruction that Defence Force troops were to be sent again to the Zimbabwean border, which had placed this issue back on the Departmental priorities, which was the reason it was now included as a key issue.

The Chairperson added that the border control had been appalling, and that the borders were easily crossed by anyone. The Security Cluster, with the South African Police Services (SAPS) responsible for guarding the borders, had not been able to perform this duty. On of the solutions previously presented was to outsource border control to private firms, to which the former Committee had not agreed and Parliament, on the recommendation of that Committee, had voted against that procedure..

Mr Gololo proposed that the Committee should let Ms van Niekerk finish the presentation before asking any further questions.

The Chairperson said he appreciated the reasons for this suggestion, but felt that since the purpose of this meeting was that every Member gather information, it was important for Members to be able to ask questions of clarity as the presentation progressed.

Ms van Niekerk then outlined the legislation governing the Department, noting that the four sources of legislation together stipulated exactly what was expected from the Department and the SANDF. One source was the White Paper on Defence, which was created in 1996/1997. In 2003 it was decided that the White Paper should be reviewed in the following financial year so that it could be updated in accordance with new needs. However, some five years later, that final updated document had not been produced. This was problematic since the Department could not budget properly if it did not know what to budget for.

Mr Meynier asked what status the Update document would have. He pointed out that ten years had lapsed since the Government had produced the White Paper on Defence, which had outlined the policies at that time. He asked what the policies were of the current government, and why a new Paper on Defence should not be issued. The updated White Paper on Defence seemed to have been a document produced for the Defence Force by the Defence Force.

The Chairperson answered by giving an example of a long-term issue for the Committee that was not part of the current legislation. In 1996 and 1997 South Africa started employing peacekeeping forces. That policy was never outlined in the White Paper on Defence, since it was not Government policy at the time when the White Paper was adopted. Because this was now Government policy, it would have to be included in relevant papers.

Ms van Niekerk added that the Department offered the Committee this information precisely so that such questions could be asked and responded to at the budget hearing. The Department had been able to pick up other information apart from the White Paper and had incorporated it into its presentations.

Ms van Niekerk said that the issues around military veterans had been recognised as important over the past five years, but had never been at the centre of policies. However, the new Government’s commitment to the issue could be clearly seen by its inclusion of military veterans into the DoD.

The White Paper indicated that peacekeeping forces could be deployed in order to comply with international obligations. One of the country’s objectives was to promote peace and stability in the region and on the Continent. The Government had been committed to deploying peacekeeping forces every year since 1993. However, there was currently a problem, since the SANDF participation had far exceeded the initial anticipated level of involvement. This had given rise to budgetary constraints, so there was a need to balance the spending between SANDF locally, and peacekeeping missions. This had had an adverse effect on the SANDF’s ability to maintain and sustain certain capabilities. It was therefore recommended that the Department should report to Parliament on the financial implications that peace operations had on general overheads such as deployment, training, and morale. Although it was accepted that some limited funds should be taken into account for deployment of peacekeeping troops, this was practically problematic, since the President, not the Department, was in charge of deployment. Members should bear in mind that deployment of peacekeeping forces had the effect of taking funding away from other defence areas.

Ms van Niekerk noted that the key issue was inadequate funding. There was a gap between the allocated budget, which on paper looked good, and the recurring reorganisation and reallocation of funds. In November 2004 it was decided that the annual allocation of 1.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per annum was insufficient to address the situation as it then pertained. The Committee had recommended that the allocation should increase to 1.7% of GDP. Furthermore the Committee pointed out that the Government had to decide whether the SANDF was a financially-driven or a mandate-driven organisation and that this decision should guide future budgeting.

Mr Maynier asked why the Committee had settled for the figure of 1.7% of GDP

Ms van Niekerk replied that it had done so on recommendation of the DoD.

Mr Maynier then pointed out that if policy documents changed then surely costs must change too.

Ms van Niekerk answered that the allocation was an artificial number, and agreed that what was sought even last year was no longer sufficient for this year. 

Ms van Niekerk moved on to discuss the Military Skills Development Systems (MSDS), which was intended to enhance the SANDF intake of young healthy individuals and to create a development opportunity for the youth of South Africa. Those individuals who had taken part in the MSDS would be given employment within the force if it was available, but if not, then they would, with their enhanced skills, be deployed in the private sector but stay on as reservists. Because some would not be enlisted in the SANDF at all, it was important to look at how may persons partaking in the MSDS were later internally deployed, how many were enlisted, and how many were not enlisted at all, to determine what amount of funding was being used on training of people who were not finally in the SANDF at all.

Ms van Niekerk said that the issue of HIV and Aids within the SANDF was urgent, since there had been a Court ruling in 2008 stating that the SANDF could no longer exclude persons with HIV from recruitment, external deployment or promotion. The Court ruling should have been implemented within six months, but this had not yet been done.

Mr Maynier asked whether the South African peacekeeping forces complied with international United Nations (UN) standards for deployment.

Ms van Niekerk replied that part of the problem was that there were no international standards; it was left up to individual countries to make their own decisions.

Ms van Niekerk also pointed out that there was a continuing problem with loss of specialist and scarce skills. Many enlisted skilled individuals had a six-year contract with the Defence Force, but seemed to be able to buy themselves out too easily and this loophole should be further considered and tightened. She summarised other issues as the maintenance backlog, combat readiness, modernisation of land forces, and the need to open communication channels between the DoD and the Aerospace Maritime and Defence industries (AMD).

Department of Defence presentation on the Budget Process and Budget Vote 19
Mr Mamabolo, Parliamentary Research Unit, gave a brief presentation on the budgetary process. All money Bills had to be considered in accordance with the procedure established by Section 75 of the Constitution. Only the Minister of Finance could introduce a money Bill. When the Minister of Finance delivered the budget speech he also tabled the Appropriation Bill, which was then referred to the Portfolio Committee on Finance. After their report on the Appropriation Bill, there would be a First Reading Debate, after which the Bill would be referred to the relevant Portfolio Committees, who would each interrogate the budget of the department under its portfolio, and engage with the relevant Minister and senior departmental officials on their policy plans and targets. Each Portfolio Committee was to hold public hearings or invite targeted stakeholders to comment on their department’s budget. Each Committee, after deliberations, would then adopt a report, which formed the basis of the debate that took place in the Extended Public Committee (EPC). When all the votes had been debated, the House decided on each budget vote in turn and then on the whole schedule. The Appropriation Bill then went for a Second Reading debate and was thereafter referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Ms van Niekerk pointed out that it was very difficult to budget correctly without a Strategic Plan, and therefore the focus of the members should be on preparing questions for the Department when it cam to present upon the budget vote. She noted that key policy priorities were outlined as the promotion of peace and stability in the region and on the Continent, the implementation of the Defence Update, the expansion of the MSDS, the modernisation of the landward forces’ equipment, the renovation of infrastructure and facilities, the retention of key personnel and the improvement of the International Relations, Peace and Security (IRPS) cluster.

The Department had eight programmes, the largest of which was the Air Defence, followed by the Landward Defence and General Support. The budget increase as a whole was 8.9%. This was quite large when compared to the previous increase of only 0.2% in real terms. The most noticeable movements in the budget were an increase of allocation by 21.9% to the Air Defence, and a decrease of 5.45% in the allocation for Force Employment, which notably contradicted the goal of sustained participation in peace support operations.

With regard to Landward Defence there was an imbalance between the personnel budget, the operating budget and the capital budget. There would be an increase of 5.62% to increase the number of MSDS members. A large 221.08% increase was allocated to the Strategic Direction sub programme in order to make provision for two military exercises.

The Air Defence budget comprised 32.08% of the total budget and the increase of 21.2% was attributed to the production and delivery of the Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft and the A400M strategic airlift capability. The challenge within this programme was to address an inadequate operating budget.

Maritime defence received 6.15% of total budget, a slight decrease from the previous year, due to the commissioning of frigates and submarines that was nearing completion. The Military Health Support received an increase of 7.79%, attributed largely to the accommodation of HIV/Aids positive members within the SANDF.

With regards to the general support, the large portion of the budget was needed to address the very poor conditions of the defence facilities. She noted, under force employment, that the African Union Mission in Sudan sub-programme had received a 370.85% increase in budget allocation, which had not been substantiated and which should therefore be scrutinised.

Ms van Niekerk suggested that other issues needing to be focused upon were the decrease in the force employment budget, seen against the promotion of peace and stability in the region and on the Continent, the implementation of the defence update, where detailed costing had not been indicated, the question whether the increase in the budget for Military Skills Development Systems was sufficient to cover its expected expansion, and whether the increase in the land forces budget was large enough to make a significant contribution to the planned modernisation. It was not clear how the budget would facilitate the retention of skilled members. Finally the budget did not mention a new allocation to deal with the lack of a Strategic Plan, which was worrying given the importance of such a plan for future policy formation and budgeting.

There were no further questions asked by Members on the presentation.

Committee programme
The Chairperson noted that he would like to schedule a date for an address by the Minister.

The Department of Defence’s representative noted that it would not be possible to attend on 17 June but would confirm whether the Minister would be available on 23 June.

Mr Maynier asked whether it would be possible to schedule hearings with the armament industry, relevant NGOs and labour unions, to get their comments prior to the budget hearing.

The Chairperson replied that the short Committee term and venue allocations were problematic. He suggested that the Members should try to meet more often themselves to ensure that all issues were fully understood until it received a confirmation on policy from the Department.

Mr Maynier commented on the media’s focus recently on the attack on a senior military official, which he found inappropriate, and wondered if the Committee would issue a statement on this issue.

The Chairperson responded that the Committee would need to obtain all information, but he shared Mr Maynier’s concerns. The Committee would debate the issue further on 17 June and prepare a statement for circulation.

The Chairperson confirmed, in answer to a question from the Department of Defence, that today’s meeting was called in addition to the meeting of 17 June, for the purpose of information for new Members. The meeting of 17 June would be in preparation for the budget hearings. that this meeting was not a replacement for the meeting on 17 April but had been called primarily as an informative meeting for new members. The 17 April remained the meeting dealing with budgetary preparations.

The meeting was adjourned.



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