Burundi: discussion; Defence Bill: briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

12 March 2002
Chairperson: Ms Thandi Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

With respect to the shooting of troops in Burundi, the Minister has advised the Committee that the matter is now under investigation by the Police. The Committee will approach the Minister and Deputy Minister to request a briefing on this matter. The Committee will be briefed shortly on the Burundi Protection Support Appropriation Bill that will increase the money being spent in Burundi.

The Defence Bill is a priority for the Committee. The issue of voluntarism in the placement of troops outside South Africa was discussed at length.

Meeting report

National Conventional Arms Control Bill
Ms Modise advised that the NCACC Bill is scheduled for parliamentary debate on Wednesday, March 13, but that a last minute problem had apparently arisen with Clause 23(1)(c) regarding the requirement of reports for pending exports. She would speak to the party spokespersons to resolve this prior to the parliamentary debate.

Ms Modise noted that the Deputy Minister of Defence had assured the Committee that a full briefing would be scheduled for today. The Committee was informed that while the Minister appreciated the request for a briefing on the recent shootings of troops in Burundi, the matter was now under investigation by the Police.

Mr Schmidt (DP) said that it was inexplicable for the Minister to claim that there is only a police investigation into this matter. Is there no investigation by the Department of Defence? It is unacceptable that the Minister says that he cannot report to the Committee.

Mr Ndlovu (IFP) asked whether they could tell the Minister that they wanted to know what is going on, and that it was improper for him not to inform the Committee.

Mr Gogotsha (ANC) suggested that the Committee requests the Minister to come before the Committee rather than place the chair in an invidious position.

Ms Modise said this would be a request for both the Minister and the Deputy Minister Committee to brief them on the situation in Burundi because it would be wrong to keep agreeing to the status quo in the SANDF.

Mr Mashimbye (ANC) said that the Department of Defence and the Minister not to be taking Parliament seriously. The issue of parliamentary oversight must be discussed by all parties, but especially by the ANC.

Ms Modise said that the Minister of Finance was to present an appropriation bill the following day for funding for the Burundi operation. The Committee was requested to motivate the bill.

Mr Ndlovu said that the procedures are wrong that the Department of Defence comes to Parliament only through the Minister of Finance to ask for money.

Ms Modise responded that the Committee represents the electorate on Defence matters. They hold oversight workshops on their obligations as Members of Parliament and as Members of political parties. The role of Members is therefore to hold the Executive accountable, which could place Members in uncomfortable corners. The next time a workshop is held, members of the Executive should be invited. The Lesotho operation illustrates that Parliament was informed, qualified perhaps, but that is not the case with Burundi. The Committee is concerned with the welfare of troops in Burundi.

Adv Madasa (ACDP) asked to what extent the Minister of Finance is informed on this issue?

Mr Schmidt commented that South Africa faces problems when people start doubting the situation in Burundi. Why could the Minister and Deputy Minister not brief the Committee?

Adv Madasa asked how any Member of the Committee could motivate funding for Burundi in the debate the next day when there has been no briefing?

Mr Ndlovu said it seemed that the Committee should nominate either the Chair or Mr Mashimbye. He suggested that it would be better to back down at this stage on the concerns raised about the lack of report-back by the Ministers.

Ms Modise said that the Bill is a separate matter from the shooting of troops in Burundi.

Defence Bill
Clause 50
Chapter Nine concerns Employment in the Defence Force. Clause 50(2) evoked discussed on the extent of parliamentary involvement in promotion polices. What level of promotion is left to the Minister compared with promotions within the SANDF? When does the President become involved with who is promoted to the ranks of general and so forth. How is this determined?

Brig Gen Van der Poel explained that the promotion of colonels and higher ranks is done by the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in consultation with the Secretary of Defence. The appointment of Generals is approved by Cabinet.

Adv Madasa asked where this is stipulated in writing. The Committee may not want to be involved in promotions, but want to know the procedures.

Mr Motunsi (Defence) said that these are prescribed in the general regulations.

Ms Modise said that there are serious budgetary considerations to the promotion of generals and the entourage they require. She thought that there are already too many generals.

Mr Schmidt asked who is responsible for determining how many generals are required? There were 27 appointments for generals.

Mr Schalkwyk (DP) said that the problem starts with the staff posts rather than operational functions which, internationally, have traditional commands over brigades, divisions and so forth.

Ms Modise noted that it is part of the Committee's oversight function to understand how the opportunities apply, and that the right criteria are applied. The generals are well paid, but the lower ranks receive poor remuneration. Consideration of Clause 50 (3)(c) on different conditions of service for members must be suspended.

Brig Gen Van der Poel referred to Clause 50 (5)(a) and (b) and advised that these clauses concerned the part-time interests of members of the SANDF. She said that some sportsmen are part professional, but are required by the SANDF as role models.

Ms Modise said that it must be recalled that some members of the SANDF have business interests in taxis. It must be ensured that business interests do not consume the time of members. Yet there are also Reserve Force members who have business interests. The Secretary of Defence must be circumspect in granting authority for outside work. Provision must be made to exclude security companies as a no-go for SANDF personnel, but members should be allowed limited outside interests.

Brig Gen Van Der Poel pointed out the requirement in Clause 50 (7) that no member of the SANDF may be involved in party political matters, other than as an ordinary member. The Committee agreed with this provision.

Mr Mashimbye commented that the Committee was moving at the speed of a tortoise.

Ms Modise said that as a Parliamentary Committee they are responsible for full and motivated consideration of the Bill. There are too many instances of bills having been rushed through without proper examination.

Clause 51
Clause 51 deals with the Reserve Force. Brig Gen Van Der Poel said that the provisions of Clause 51(1) replace the old Commando systems, and include volunteer service for periods varying from twelve to sixty days per annum. Clause 51(5) requires that members, including Members of Parliament doing Reserve Force service, must not be politically involved.

After discussion, the Committee recommended that the word "special' should be removed from Clause 51(7) as it created an inferior ranking between the regular and reserve forces.

Mr Schalkwyk asked whether the troops in Burundi are volunteers, or are they obliged to go?

Ms Modise said that this also applied in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Radebe (Defence) said that no person is forced, but people are asked to volunteer for these assignments.

Mr Schmidt said that the requirement of voluntarism destroys the creation of an effective task force. How can you create volunteer forces without resulting inadequacies in performance?

Mr Radebe responded that the core business of the SANDF is the defence of the Republic. Therefore volunteers are necessary to serve outside South Africa.

Mr Schmidt said that the President has the prerogative to require service outside South Africa. It has nothing to do with volunteering.

Ms Modise said that the Committee needs to exercise their minds on the White Paper on Peacekeeping. Members of the SANDF, once in the Force, cannot be permitted to operate on a volunteer basis.

Brig Gen Van Der Poel explained that Clause 48 (5) of the Bill provides for service anywhere in the world where Clause 64 provides for exemption on the basis of conscience.

Ms Modise said that although the aim is to complete this legislation by June, the imperative is to avoid rushing through bad legislation. There is no magic to the June deadline.

Mr Mashimbye asked whether the Committee could meet over the weekends and on Fridays to go through the Bill?

Ms Modise said that this was not practical, given their other commitments. The priority of the Committee was the Defence Bill, now that the National Conventional Arms Control Bill is complete, is the Defence Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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