The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (the Department) briefed the Committee on its budget and strategic plans for 2010 to 2013. In terms of outlined strategy, the DOD intended to establish a fully functional entity for Military Veterans. The Defence Secretariat would be reviewed to align it with the Defence Mandate. Armscor would be transformed in line with the Defence Mandate, and Denel would be refocused for Defence strategic capability. Over the Medium Term Strategic Framework, the intention was to move towards a mandate driven Force design, to embrace government initiatives against poverty, and to build the developmental state.
It was noted that the Defence budget baseline would be reduced over the period 2008/09 to 2012/13, for efficiency saving. Further savings had already been identified and put in place. The fight against crime would be intensified, and border safeguarding improved. The risk management issues had been identified, and a major one was the skills loss due to the exit of large numbers of skilled personnel.
Discussion by Members was lively, but did not take the form of intensive interrogation of specifics, and a number of questions remained unanswered. The Committee decided that another engagement on the presentation would be useful. A DA member challenged the Strategic Plan at the outset, stating that he felt the DOD operated in a policy vacuum. ANC members contested that, but agreed with him that there was need for a Defence Update, in the form of either a White Paper or a Green Paper.
The Deputy Minister responded to that issue, and a considerable part of the discussion centered around policy issues. The Deputy Minister contended that a White Paper was produced when a new government assumed power, or when the defence situation changed drastically. He pointed out that there was a clear Defence policy, based on civilian control of the military, a Defence Secretariat, and a contained Force with rapid emergency expansion capabilities. In response to the DA criticism, the Deputy Minister stated that the Defence budget was not adequate, and that urgent Defence needs had to be communicated more consistently to civilians. He noted that the template that the DOD had adopted for presenting itself, was perhaps problematic in terms of effective communication.
Members also asked about the transformation and refocusing of Armscor and Denel respectively, and one Member asked how it would be possible to transform Armscor, because that was not owned by the Department, and was destined to become more independent. Other questions by Members related to questions around skills loss, the Department’s contributions to the World Cup, the intentions for the entity for Military Veterans, and controls of the border. Members also asked for further information around the stated intentions to concentrate on rural development and land resources, the proposed Works Regiment and what it would handle. Other questions that could not be answered in this meeting included the African Agenda, Defence readiness, the measurability of objectives, and youth employment The Chairperson requested that written questions be presented to the DOD before the next meeting, and suggested that the Committee meet with Landward Defence, the Air Force and Maritime Defence separately.
Department of Defence and Military Veterans Strategic Plan and budget Presentation
Mr Tsepe Motumi, Director General: Military Veterans, Department of Defence and Military Veterans, briefed the Committee on the Strategic Plans and budget for 2010 to 2013, which he said would identify strategic thrusts linked to the Defence Mandate.
A fully functional entity within the newly constituted Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DOD or the Department), in respect of military veterans, was being established. The Landward Programme would be upgraded. The Defence Secretariat would be reviewed to align it with the Defence Mandate. Armscor would be transformed to be in line with the Defence Mandate. Denel would be refocused to support defence strategic capabilities.
Mr Motumi indicated that for the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), there would be a movement towards a mandate-driven Force design. The DOD intended to embrace government initiatives aimed at combating poverty. A deepening of civil /military relations was foreseen. There would be phased withdrawal from internal deployment in support of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Other MTSF concerns included the fight against crime, border safeguarding, empowerment of youth, rural development strategy and agrarian reform, skills and human resource development, and TB and HIV/Aids awareness programmes. African advancement and the building of a developmental state were also important, with patriotism and discipline emphasised.
Mr Motumi pointed out, with regard to the budget, that the Defence baseline had been reduced over the period 2008/09 to 2012/13. Efficiency savings amounted to a total reduction of R8 billion over the 5-year period. That included a saving of R4.5 billion due to the cancellation of the Airbus A400M aircraft contract (see attached presentation for details).
Mr Motumi took the Committee through the DOD programmes of Administration; Force Employment; Landward Defence; Air Defence; Maritime Defence; Military Health Support; Defence Intelligence, and General Support. In respect of each, he outlined what was being done (see attached presentation for details).
With regard to risk management, he indicated that there was a continued loss of scarce skills due to the exit of large numbers of skilled personnel. Inadequate funding for human resources could cause a further burden on the DOD budget vote or allocation. Another identified risk was non-compliance with legislation, such as certain aspects of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Mr D Maynier (DA) questioned the appointment of General Matanzima as new Acting Secretary of Defence.
The Chairperson admonished him that the day’s session did not deal with appointments. Appointments were made by the Minister. It would be better to wait for the Minister to be present before asking such questions.
Mr Maynier said that he disagreed, but respected the Chairperson’s position. He proceeded to say that the strategic plan was in need of review, and that he felt that it should be rejected by the Committee. He said that there were no clear objectives set out in the document. There were general objectives, but those were not integrated.
Mr Maynier said that in his view, the Strategic Plan presented did not take an amended defence policy. Reference was made to a White Paper on Defence Industry, but not to a green paper. The Strategic Plan was therefore positioned in a policy vacuum. He asked if there would be a Defence Update and a Green Paper in the current year, pointing out that this had been rolled over for some years in succession.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) also referred to the White Paper on Defence Industry. He asked for details as to which White Paper was referred to, and asked also if there was a time frame for production.
Mr Motumi responded that a White Paper on Defence Industry would be brought out in the forthcoming financial period.
The Chairperson asked about a Defence Update.
Mr Motumi replied that once the Minister had finalised the matter, an implementable Update would be brought to the Committee.
The Chairperson countered that the Committee had heard that before, but wanted to know when it would happen and whether in fact this document existed.
Mr Ndlovu asked when the Minister would be ready.
Mr Maynier said that the Committee had been hearing about these matters for nine months. A Green Paper was needed. The Committee had to look at a Defence review - in terms of White and Green Papers.
The Chairperson added that to get behind what was happening in the Department, the Committee needed a Defence Update. New legislation had to be prepared for.
The Chairperson questioned what informed the Department to transform Armscor, what impact the separate Department of Military Veterans would have on a Defence Update, and what were the policies that guided the Department.
Mr Thabang Makwetla, Deputy Minister of Defence, said that he had some remarks on these questions, which he had held back until now so that the Department could respond.
The Deputy Minister stated emphatically that there was no policy vacuum. The Portfolio Committee could not expect a White Paper soon. New policies were introduced when new governments came into power. The last election had not brought about a change in government.
The current Defence policy had been informed by an original White Paper that spelled out the policy of the ruling party. There would be civilian oversight and a Defence Secretariat. The Defence Force would not be deployed internally. He reiterated that there was no policy vacuum. A Defence Review could be called for, as a strategic response to changing circumstances, should such a need arise.
After 1994, it was decided that South Africa would keep force levels within certain confines, but there would be emergency expansion capabilities. There was no need for a Defence Review, unless the environment changed drastically. MTSF plans were based on ruling party objectives.
The Deputy Minister concluded that Mr Maynier had to spell out in more detail what he thought to be the deficiencies of the documents presented.
Mr Maynier remarked that he failed to see a clear plan for the transformation of Armscor and Denel. The outcome of objectives such as those were not measurable. Compliance with tasks was not measurable. The same applied to outcomes like safe borders, impounding of pirate seacraft, or the number of flying hours put in to maintain Air Force readiness.
He further pointed out that flying hours and sea-going hours were inadequate. In terms of oversight, the question must be asked as to whether the Strategic Plan presented would allow the Committee to hold the Department accountable.
Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) referred to the fact that Armscor would be producing for other clients. She asked which other clients those would be. Would the country be safeguarded against them? How did the DOD propose to transform an entity it did not own?
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) noted that Armscor was to be transformed in line with the Defence mandate. He asked for details of its current status in terms of the mandate.
Mr Motumi responded that the South African Police Services was another client. Armscor was also involved with disposal of obsolete or decommissioned equipment. In that way, such equipment was kept away from non-South African entities.
Mr Antonie Visser, Financial Officer, DOD, said that the business of Armscor had revolved around disposal, but the development was to look for business outside the Department. Armscor helped the Police Services with acquisitions, chiefly of helicopters.
He continued that Denel consisted of various entities, some of which were not economically viable. The government had spent money on those. Denel did not receive a subsidy, and had applied for recapitalisation funds. It had sought equity partners, and had signed a contract with Zeiss Optics. The Finance Minister and the Minister of Defence were looking at the economic viability of Denel. The DOD had asked what it contributed to defence.
Armscor had the status of a contractor, who operated independently, to secure the best deal. It was currently engaged in acquisition studies for patrol vessels. The army faced acquisition challenges. Anti-tank capabilities had to be looked at.
Mr Maynier asked the Deputy Minister if he supported a Strategic Business Plan that effectively stripped out the budget. Planes were not flying and ships were not sailing, and the border was underpatrolled. If he was supporting this budget, then he was failing the people.
The Chairperson intervened to say to Mr Maynier that he lacked sufficient knowledge of the Department to make such a statement. He asked Mr Maynier to withdraw his statements, and not to turn the Portfolio Committee meeting into a finger pointing exercise. It was not proper to accuse the Department, before it had been given a real chance to explain itself.
The Deputy Minister responded that Mr Maynier was in fact expressing a popular sentiment. He did agree that flying and sea-going hours could appear inadequate. The Defence budget was way below what the Department would like to see. It would be in order for Mr Maynier to speak to civilians, to inform the South African public that the Defence budget had to be increased.
With regard to other concerns of Mr Maynier, Mr Makwetla noted that every government department had its own culture. If the DOD could find a different template for presentation, it could help to make information clearer. He agreed that gaps had to be pointed out.
Mr L Tolo (COPE) asked about the DOD and rural development. He described himself as a rural man, and quipped that he had only seen the army on television, not in the rural areas. He asked what kind of land reform the Department had in mind.
Mr Motumi referred to such policies as management of land resources through promotion of land use recycling, as set out on Slide 22. There was compliance with the National Environmental Management Act to guide sustainable resource management. There had been bilateral agreements with the US Defence Department, for some time. Finalisation of land claims was a strategic priority. Some land had been handed back, and some had been kept for restitution.
Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked about skills loss from the army, wanting to know where the skilled people were going. He also asked for details of the time frame for the Commission investigating that.
Mr Motumi replied that skills loss occurred to South African and overseas defence industries, and was wide ranging. Mitigating factors consisted of incentives for skills retention that were being developed. The Department was part of the government’s Occupation Specific Dispensation scheme, and would align itself with that. The Review Commission would investigate conditions of service, to provide incentives.
Ms S Ndabeni (ANC) asked about the Works Regiment. He wanted to know about its current status and questioned if it was up and running.
Lt-Gen Themba Matanzima, Acting Secretary for Defence, replied that the purpose of the Works Regiment was for the DOD to maintain its properties, instead of having it done by the Department of Public Works.
Mr T Pelser, Director of Logistics Management, DOD, responded that the Works Regiment was positioned under the Chief of Logistics. An appreciation of requirements had been prepared. 450 artisans like bricklayers and electricians had been trained. Another 150 would be trained every year, to maintain facilities. The Works Regiment would not be concerned with changes to facilities, however.
Mr Tolo asked about the contribution of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to the hosting of the World Cup.
General Matanzima answered that 7000 Army and Air Force members would be deployed. Security needs would be covered. Helicopters and aeroplanes would be involved. Most of the support would be from the Army.
Ms Ngabadeli remarked that the new Department for Military Veterans posed a big challenge. R20 million had been allocated to it. She questioned if that was enough and whether matters like housing and medical aid would be attended to.
Mr Maynier said that the formation of the Department for Military Veterans, had been done without consulting Parliament.
The Deputy Minister replied that the expression “to grind maize with the pot already on the fire”, was apt to describe the situation. Slide 26 reflected that additional funds to the baseline included grants to Military veterans. Those were meagre, but the budget had to speak to an organisation that had yet to be put in place. A policy of benefits for military veterans would be established. Needs had been determined and a population established.
Ms Ndabeni asked if enough personnel were available for borderline control.
General Matanzima responded that one Company would be deployed on the border with Zimbabwe, on 1 April. A Company had 120 to 160 members. Another would be added, to make control from Musina to the east possible. The borders with Mozambique and Swaziland would also receive attention. The Army would work in conjunction with the Air Police Service. There would be backup. Vehicle and livestock theft would be resisted.
The Chairperson asked about ports of entry.
General Matanzima answered that Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and South African Revenue Service (SARS) would handle that.
Mr Maynier complained that not one of his questions had been answered.
The Chairperson countered that nobody had refused to answer those questions. It was good to question aggressively, but one had to accept that only so much could be accomplished in a single session.
Ms Mgabadeli requested that the issues be revisited. She thanked the Department for the effort that had gone into the presentation.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) agreed that the preparation evident in the briefing was commendable, and congratulated the Department. There had not been enough time to respond to questions. It was good that there could be a return engagement. He definitely did not agree with Mr Maynier that the strategic plan had to be rejected because of a policy vacuum.
Mr Ndlovu said that it was awkward to interrogate a document during a first engagement. It was very difficult for the Members to get down to specifics. The Committee needed time with the document.
Remarks and questions not discussed
Ms Mgabadeli asked how the needs set out in Chapter 2, would articulate with the uniqueness of the SANDF.
Ms Ndabeni enquired about alignment with government priorities, especially the definition of focus areas for monitoring and evaluation. The Defence review had to give direction, which the Committee had not received.
Mr Maynier asked for clarity about the alignment of the Defence Secretariat with the mandate. What were the implications for civilian control of the Army? What were the consequences of requested additional funding for military preparedness?
Ms Ndabeni noted that though there was a stated commitment to promote the African agenda, funding for that had been reduced. Armscor was said to be involved in rural skills development and among youth. What skills were referred to? Where did the Department stand with regard to HIV/Aids policy?
The Chairperson suggested that the materials be studied, and that there be another engagement. Money Bills would be discussed on 17 March, and the Budget Vote was scheduled for 4 May.
The Chairperson thanked all and adjourned the meeting.
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