The South African Defence College paid a courtesy visit to the Portfolio Committee on Defence.
Members condemned the recent protest march by the members of the SANDF. While there was an acceptance that soldiers needed to be compensated better, Parliament viewed their actions in a negative light. The Committee was opposed to unionisation in the military and supported the Minister of Defence and Military Veteran’s proposal to establish a Commission that would deal with all the concerns raised by the soldiers.
Welcome and Introductions
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the South African Defence College and introduced all the Committee Members who were present.
Brigadier General Schoeman, South African National Defence Force (SANDF), first expressed satisfaction that the Committee had agreed to a courtesy meeting and then introduced all those who formed part of the delegation. These included representatives from the SANDF, air force, navy, military health services, government departments and parastatals.
In addition, he stated that they were interested in learning about how the Committee worked and how Members perceived national security.
The Chairperson condemned the recent protest march by the members of the SANDF. While there was an acceptance that soldiers needed to be compensated better, Parliament viewed their actions in a negative light. Soldiers were supposed to maintain discipline and uphold the law. The strike action undermined the Constitution as well as the national security of the country. For all those reasons, the Committee was opposed to unionisation in the military and supported the Minister of Defence and Military Veteran’s proposal to establish a Commission that would deal with all the concerns raised by the soldiers.
The Chairperson invited the delegation to ask questions or to make any comments.
Capt. M Sayed, South African Navy, asked what percentage increase they could expect and when they would get it
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) acknowledged that their working conditions were not satisfactory and that they should receive better salaries. Parliament would push the Ministry to ensure that this was achieved. However, the Committee was not in favour of unions operating in the military sector. Instead, an appropriate structure should be established to deal with all the social and economic concerns highlighted by the soldiers.
Col. Maj. Riekert emphasised the need for civic education and patriotism among members of the SANDF and asked the Committee to urgently kick-start such an initiative.
Col. Silveira from the Brazilian Army stated that South Africa needed a strong defence force to back its diplomacy. To get a strong, well-equipped, well mannered defence force, they needed the support from Parliament.
Capt. Ntintili (SANDF) pointed out that unions were the saviours for many young soldiers and if they were to be banished, the army would loose a lot of them to the private sector. He also stressed that the new structure should not only addresses the salary issue but the integration process as well.
Mr L Diale (ANC) reassured the delegation that the Committee was aware of their plight and they would do everything in their power to solve their problems. The Committee would oversee the work of the Commission and ensure that it handled all the matters that were raised. He stressed that nobody forced was to join the army and it was a decision taken by each individual. Each army official took an oath that governed how they should conduct themselves.
Mr D Manier (DA) stated that the problems in the SANDF were both complex and historical. The DA supported the establishment of the Commission in addressing all the issues.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee would consult with the Minister of Defence about the establishment of a Commission so that soldiers could speak with one voice. He added that the Committee was “behind” them and would work to solve their problems.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation on behalf of the Portfolio Committee.
Brigadier Schoeman appreciated Members assertiveness and thanked them for the opportunity.
On behalf of the delegation, Capt. V Gcange, South African Defence College, presented the Chairperson with a military shield as a token of appreciation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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