The Committee met to consider the adoption of the Committee Report on the Department of Defence Budget Vote 19. The Report contained the overview of and comment upon the policy priorities for 2009/10 financial year. The Democratic Alliance Members questioned whether the reference in the Report to “aggregate views of the Committee” meant that all Members should agree with the report, and pointed out that they were unhappy with the wording used in Clause 4.2.2 of the Report, which stated that the Committee wanted to see a more radical approach to transformation, which would take into account gender and demographical representation in the defence force. They proposed that instead reference should simply be made to a “skilled and diverse” Defence Force. Other Members stressed their views that the words were appropriate and correct, that they highlighted the need to progress with transformation, to redress the imbalances of the past, and that they did not in any way imply that people would be appointed who did not have the necessary qualifications. The point was made that statistics should be made available to check the progress. Another Member expressed concern that there might have been exclusion of some people who might not necessarily fit into the definition of military veterans, but who were nonetheless deserving of support, but it was indicated that this was being addressed by a Task Team. Members adopted the Committee’s Report, without amendments.
Adoption of Committee Report: Department of Defence Budget Vote 19
The Chairperson distributed a letter from the Ministry to Committee Members, asking that they be ready to discuss it at the next meeting. He briefly mentioned a discussion with the Minister of Defence, in which she had indicated that she was ready to start interacting with the Committee members on a range of issues, and looked forward to having a harmonious working relationship with the Committee.
The Chairperson tabled the Committee Report on the Department of Defence’s Budget Vote 19, and asked Members to consider whether this correctly reflected the Committee’s views.
Mr D Maynier (DA) needed clarification on the use of the term ‘aggregate views of the Committee’. He wanted to know whether this was intended to mean that each and every Member agreed with the report in its entirety, or whether it was supposed to refer only to agreement by the majority of the Members. He asked this because he felt Clause 4.2.2 of the report did not reflect his thinking.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) responded by saying that under normal circumstances a report would be adopted if it reflected the views of the majority of members. When deciding whether or not to adopt the report, minority views were not normally taken into consideration.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) agreed with Mr Mlangeni that this was also his understanding.
Mr Maynier then singled out this clause, saying that the wording “gender and demographically represented” offended his views and that of his party. He said he would be happy if the clause had been drafted in some other way that left out the issue of representivity. He proposed an amendment, using the words “skilled and diverse” defence force instead of “demographically represented” defence force.
Mr L Mphahlele (PAC) said there was no need to be apologetic about the use the words complained of by Mr Maynier. He pointed out that South Africa came from a deeply divided past where race and gender were used to oppress other sectors of the population. He felt that the original phrasing of the clause was important, in order to state clearly the road envisaged by the South African Defence force in terms of transformation.
Mr Mlangeni challenged Mr Maynier to explain the meaning of his proposition of “skilled and diverse” in the context of transformation. In his view, in order for transformation to be completed, there was a need to take into account the balance between race and gender in our society, and this was inextricably linked to the concept of representivity.
Mr Ndlovu reminded Members that the original wording, which incorporated representivity, was borrowed from the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. He was very wary of tampering with it, as this would seem to undermine the legislation passed to that effect.
Mr C Gololo (ANC) further echoed that since democracy, the country had been going through a process of integrating the defence forces. There was an urgent need to fast-track transformation, not only in the defence force but also in all government departments.
Mr Maynier conceded that addressing racial and gender imbalance was critical, but said that this could not be addressed through what sounded to him like proportional allocation of jobs in line with racial and gender composition.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) agreed with Mr Maynier, saying he too was cautious of accepting the wording as set out in Clause 4.2.2 in the report. He also felt that the amendment proposed by Mr Maynier would not undermine any legislation that seeks to steer transformation.
Mr Mlangeni was at pains to explain that the Report, as it stood, had nothing that would warrant the fears of Mr Maynier, as it did not specify what percentages needed to be achieved in coming to terms with transformation expectations.
Mr Mphahlele said there was no need to be over-simplistic in the wording of the clause, since in any event this did not mean that people who were not appropriately qualified would be hired to occupy highly specialised areas in the Department, merely for the sake of reaching the targets of transformation.
Mr M Mncwango (IFP) said there was a need to have statistics on the table when discussing these issues, in order to see exactly how far the country had gone and how much more still needed to be done.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mncwango, saying it was critical to have statistics to hand as a guide to measure progress. He further urged Mr Maynier to read the clause in the context of the entire report, rather than viewing it in isolation.
Mr Mphahlele proposed that it would be preferable not to tamper with anything set out in the Report.
The Chairperson said that the opportunity would always be provided to Members to raise their views if they were not happy with the way the report was drafted.
Mr Mncwango complimented the Ministry for extending its mandate to cover Military Veterans, but was concerned whether there might have been exclusion of some categories of people, who might not necessarily fit into the definition of military veterans, but who were nonetheless needing to be included in the care offered.
The Chairperson referred Mr Mncwango to Clause 5.1.1 of the report, saying his concerns were currently being addressed by the established Task Team that was to investigate a range of issues pertaining to military veterans.
The Committee Report was adopted, without amendments.
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