Joint Committee on Defence: Consideration and Adoption of Final Programme


10 March 2011
Chairperson: Mr J Maake (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Joint Standing Committee on Defence convened to adopt its Programmes for the upcoming terms. As the meeting convened it was discovered that they did not form a quorum. A member was sent to find more members. During this time the members discussed moving further meetings to Thursday mornings so Fridays remained free. They also discussed and added some extra points suggested by the Democratic Alliance to the Programme. The programme was approved with amendments and also on the understanding that further changes could be made later on.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson started by reading announcements from the ministry. The death of an air force soldier on 8 March 2011 at Makhado Airforce base was regrettably reported by the Ministry. The pilot collapsed and died after a training exercise in a Hawk fighter plane. Medical personnel were unable to resuscitate him. The air force had convened a board of inquiry to determine the cause of death and the Committee would be kept informed.  

Furthermore, the Chairperson announced that he had sought out the Chair of Chairpersons to request another time slot for the Committee instead of Friday’s. He had explained that the Committee had a serious problem with this time slot, especially Members who came from Limpopo and the Northern Cape and required connecting flights to get home for the weekend. The Chair of Chairpersons had agreed to request. The Chairperson had proposed either Thursday afternoons or evenings as possible alternative times. However, only one slot was available and this was Thursday mornings from 08:00-9:30. The Chairperson indicated that he had been happy with that offer, which meant that the meetings would not last more than two hours, which had always been his objective. The Committee Secretary would from now onwards schedule all the meetings for Thursday morning, leaving Fridays free.

The Chairperson opened the floor to the discussion of changing the time slots.

Mr L Diale (ANC) said he agreed with the idea but requested it be discussed as the Committee could encounter instances were a time slot of more than two hours was required.

Mr DMaynier (DA) supported the idea of meeting on a Thursday as it would make the Committee more functional. His concern was however that there would be certain meetings that would last more than two hours, and that the Committee should try to anticipate those meetings and schedule them at specific periods. He mentioned one example being the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, which had not been before Parliament since 2 September 2009- the Committee would have to allocate more than 2 hours to that meeting. He did say that if they anticipated that in advance there was no reason why they could not schedule around that.

The Chairperson recalled that he had forgotten to ask the Chair of Chairperson if he had accepted the Thursday morning slot. If so, did that mean the Friday slot would fall away? If it didn’t he suggested that the Committee could still use it when appropriate.

Mr A Mazyia (ANC) suggested that the Committee could also coordinate with the Portfolio Committee on Defence. If the programme suggested that there might be a long meeting, the Committee could perhaps swap days with that portfolio committee.
Mr D Bloem (COPE) said he was very comfortable with Thursday morning. On the issue of the deceased pilot he proposed the Committee send a message of condolence to the family who lost the young pilot.

The Chairperson agreed with the suggestion of sending condolences; however he said it should also be for the family of the soldier who had been shot recently. He asked the Secretary to find out when it had been as he could not recall.

Committee Programme

The Chairperson the asked if they had to go through the Programme now; he explained that he was worried about the quorum. He requested that one or two people be sent out to round up more Members so that they could reach a quorum.

Mr Maynier requested that despite the lack of a quorum; he wanted the Committee to comment and discuss the programme.

Mr Bloem agreed with his colleague, but added that a programme was so prone to change during the course of the year that they should just adopt it. Any proposed change that was desired should be brought before the Chairperson and adopted later on.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Bloem stating the necessity of adopting the Programme, especially as it seemed that the NCOP members were not easily released for the Committee meetings, making it hard for them to have enough members. He also stressed the need to submit at least something to the ‘powers that be’ so they stayed out of trouble. He reiterated his request to send someone out to round up one or two members so they could adopt this thing.

A Member was sent out to look for others to complete the quorum.

A discussion commenced back and forth of how many members they were short of to form a quorum.

The Chairperson suggested that they open the programme for discussion while they were looking for extra members.

Mr Maynier welcomed that the programme included a briefing by the Department of Defence on the implementation on the Interim Service Commission’s recommendations. In terms of the general frame work of the Programme he tended to think of it in four groups or ‘silos’. The first being the operations of the defence force, the second being the staff functions and its logistics, the third ‘silo’ being the acquisition of capital equipment and finally conventional arms control. He suggested that there were a few things that were missing from the Programme. One was an oversight of the line functions of the defence force, by that he meant the Combat Readiness Briefing. He believed that there should be combat readiness briefings that would provide oversight over the defence forces operational capabilities. When it came to his before mentioned third ‘silo’, acquisition, despite the Committees scheduled hearing with Denel and ARMSCOR which he supported, he still thought the Committee should have proper oversight over the armed forces acquisition process. Every year billions of Rands were spent on equipment acquisition but Parliament was never told exactly what was being bought. He asked the Committee to divide that oversight into two parts, looking at acquisition policy and looking at the Defence Forces acquisition programmes. The Committee should know what the key programmes were, how they were progressing and what did they cost. Finally, he would also like to see some meetings in the field as opposed to just in Parliament. Even with the minimum time at their disposal he suggested they should leave the parliamentary barracks and go to the military barracks. He would like the Committee to at least visit one major South African Army infantry base. He suggested it be Doornkop and Lenz military bases because of the problems that the Defence Force Commission found there.

Mr Maziya told the Chairperson that the Programme for the second term was on a separate piece of paper handed out to the Chairperson. He did agree with the Mr Maynier that the Committee should go out in the field where the soldiers where.

The member sent out on the search returned with two extra members. At this point the Committee discovered that they were still one member short of a quorum. (The search continued)

Mr P Pretorious (DA) agreed with Mr Maynier’s suggestions. He also suggested that the Commitee visit the border posts and the forces guarding it as well so they would get a picture of what the troops were doing on the borders.

The Chairperson commented that everything suggested seemed agreeable, however he would like to know how they would go about implementing it in the Programme, would they simply put it in. He also believed that the Department of Defence would provide the Committee with the funds to visit the bases and troops in the field. He asked if there were any other additions.

Mr Bloem said that he had been under the impression that they had agreed that they would adopt the Programme and add other amendments as they emerged.

The Chairperson said they were simply discussing while they waited for the last member to arrive so they could adopt the Programme.

Mr Maynier said that he would support the adoption so long as they had an undertaking that the Combat Readiness Briefing and the briefings on Acquisition would be scheduled.

The Chairperson did not see why they could not agree to that.

Mr Bloem reiterated the support for his statement of immediate adoption.

A final Member was brought in and a quorum was reached.

The Programme of the Joint Standing Committee of Defence is adopted. 

The Chairperson thanked the Members brought in and concluded the meeting. 


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