Consideration of Letters from the President & Committee's Third and Fourth Term Programme


24 August 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Montsitsi (ANC; Gauteng)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee’s first order of business was to consider six letters from the office of the President regarding defence operations. There was an issue over the distribution of the letters, as the ANC noted they had not received them. This led to a discussion about the logistics of sending and receiving documents.

The letters were discussed in chronological order. The DA made comments about the insufficient detail of the letters dated 17 June and 20 July, which regarded anti-piracy naval operations off the southern coast of the Indian Ocean. The DA suggested sending a letter to the President requesting further information on these operations, which the ANC objected to. The Committee’s recent oversight visit to Pretoria was discussed, and it was stated that sufficient details had been provided at the briefings there.

The remaining letters were considered, and the DA raised further concerns about the potential lack of compliance with section 201(3) of the Constitution by the President. When the Committee moved to adopt the letters, the ANC noted that there was not a quorum present so the Committee could not function in this way.

The Committee proceeded to consider the Third and Fourth Term programmes. The major issues that were to be dealt with for the remainder of the year were discussed. The DA tried to make a point about the programme, but it was adopted before consideration was given. Further, the DA noted that its complaints were not being responded to. Apologies were stated at the meeting’s end, and the meeting was adjourned.

Meeting report

Consideration of letters
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had a short programme for the meeting and would be finalising the consideration of letters from the President. The Constitution implored the office of the President to report to Parliament through the Joint Standing Committee on Defence whenever South African troops were deployed, internally or externally of the Republic. He asked the Committee members if they had received these letters.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) said that the letters had not been sent to him and fellow members of his party.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary, Ms Bulelwa Madikane, if she had emailed the letters to everybody, to which she replied yes. He asked her for the names of those she had sent the emails to, and she responded that it was a group email sent out the previous day.

Mr Maziya reiterated that they did not receive the letters via email nor were they placed in the respective pigeonholes. He noted that he was the Whip of this Committee, and that if he did not have the email then the Committee Secretary must check with him and his fellow members to make sure she was sending it to the correct email addresses and put the letters in their pigeonholes to rectify the mistake.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary if she had a list of who it was sent out to, and she once again replied that it was a group email, noting that everybody was in the group. He remarked that hard copies should be distributed in advance in the future, and he requested the members to check their emails as well.

Mr Maziya remarked that some of the Members did not use their parliamentary email addresses, and if the correct emails were not noted by the Committee Secretary, this problem would persist. He stated that he had never opened his parliamentary email address.

The Chairperson instructed the members to verify that the Committee Secretary was provided the right contact details, and stated that he appreciated the issue Mr Maziya was raising.

Mr D Maynier (DA) made an alternative proposal, saying the onus was on the Committee Secretary to check with the members to make sure she had the correct contact details. He requested the Committee Secretary repackage the six letters and re-email them to the Committee.

The Chairperson said this information would be captured by the Committee Secretary and advised the Committee to resume its business for the day’s meeting. He proceeded to discuss the first correspondence, which was about the number of personnel allocated to local government. The second correspondence was about the 200 members deployed in Mozambique, and he noted an extension to 31 March 2012 for this deployment.

Mr Maynier commented on anti-piracy operations on the southern coast of the Indian Ocean, acknowledging the deployment of 200 and 377 troops noted in the letters dated 17 June and 20 July respectively. He said there was knowledge of one naval frigate being deployed for this purpose on the east coast of southern Africa, but felt that this could not explain the personnel numbers stated in these letters.

The Chairperson intervened to state that they were dealing with the 17 June letter and would get to the 20 July letter later.

Mr Maynier said he would make the same point when they discussed the 20 July letter. He reiterated that the deployment of a single frigate did not explain why 200 troops were deployed, and asked that the Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, write a letter to the President requesting further particulars about the operation.

The Chairperson remarked that in the past week, the Committee had an oversight visit in Pretoria, where they met with, among others, the Chief of the Navy and Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Members were briefed about the Somali piracy problem and its creeping southward toward the Mozambique Channel, which threatened the southern Africa trade route. He noted that all members were contacted to attend the oversight visit. The presentation received from the Chief of the Navy explained the deployment which Mr Maynier was referring to, and thus, no letter to the President was necessary. He asked to proceed to the third letter from 19 July.

Mr Maynier began making a point before he was cut off by Mr Maziya.

Mr Maziya said that when a matter was presented before the Committee, the Chairperson should observe and allow members to respond before making his own comments.

Mr Maynier stated that he did not think the Chairperson was correct in saying there was no need for asking the President for further particulars. He had a legitimate question concerning a very important provision in the Constitution which required the executive branch to inform the legislature about deployments. He remarked that this was to prevent so-called “executive wars,” alluding to the 1974 situation in which the public was informed via radio about South African forces invading Angola. He argued that his question was valid on the basis that the numbers of deployment were quite substantial, while commenting that he felt the President had been taking the rights steps to combat the piracy problem. However, he raised concern that there could be a land deployment that the Committee was not informed of, and stated that it was the duty of the Committee to ask such questions in pursuit of a proper explanation.

Mr Maziya said his understanding was that these letters were to inform the Committee of the various deployments, but did not believe that further details should be discussed in this forum. He suggested that the Chairperson first review, then organise distribution of such a letter, and if discussion was desired, it should be held in a closed meeting.

Mr Maynier said he thought it would be entirely possible for the President to provide more details, but not specifics of the operation itself. He sought details such as how the personnel numbers were divided up amongst various divisions of the defence forces, and felt that a line could be established that would not compromise national security.

Mr B Fihla (ANC) remarked that the Army was different from other departments in that it dealt with very sensitive issues. If the Army exposed itself, South Africa’s defence would be weakened. It would not be wise for the Committee to know every detail and was in agreement with Mr Maziya. He further stated that these issues involved the lives of people.

The Chairperson reiterated that all the Committee members were invited to Pretoria and that the meetings there were closed. The briefings received there were about naval operations. Those that had atteneded were satisfied with the briefing. He moved to close this matter.

Mr Maynier replied that while he respected the Chairperson’s ruling, he disagreed with it. He did not recall the programme for the Pretoria oversight visit noting anti-piracy operations. He also did not remember hearing that those meetings would be confidential.

Mr Maziya responded that it was the duty of a member of the DA to attend and report to fellow DA members about the oversight visit, and that blame should not be raised in the Committee.

Mr E Mlambo (ANC) said the Committee was going around this issue in circles and remarked that programmes were subject to change.

The Chairperson said he would not tolerate the lack of an apology for Mr Maynier’s absence in Pretoria. He had an exchange with Mr Maziya, who tried to articulate the reason for Mr Maynier’s absence, and then stated that Mr Maynier would not be allowed to speak further on this matter since no apology was received.

Mr Maynier requested a point of order to state his case about his absence. The accusation against him was unfounded because he did tender his apology and he was almost certain that the Committee Secretary received it. He was in constant communication with her during the oversight visit in order to try and arrange his attendance for part of it, and stated that she could confirm this. He demanded an apology from the Chairperson for what he called factually incorrect accusations.

The Chairperson noted that no apology was received from Mr Maynier and moved to consider the 17 June letter.

Mr Maziya said it was necessary to clear the absence of Mr Maynier. He noted that he and Mr Maynier served on the Ad hoc Committee for Protection of Information Bill, and the Chief Whip of the National Assembly instructed that Committee’s members not to leave. He remarked that Mr Maynier had another responsibility which prevented him from attending the Pretoria meetings, saying the Ad hoc Committee had timeframes and its members were compelled to partake in its deliberations. He said that all the Chairs should be informed that these members were exempt from other responsibilities.

The Chairperson once again noted that no apology was present at the start of the meeting and moved on. He proceeded to consider the 19 July letter, which detailed the deployment of 100 SANDF members to the Central African Republic, which expired on 31 March 2011. The next letter was also dated 19 July and concerning the deployment of 11 SANDF members to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The letter articulated the purpose to be a special advisory team, and expired on 31 March 2011 but was extended to 31 March 2012. He further noted 12 SANDF members sent to the DRC to train their armed forces. This had expired and was renewed as well. The 20 July letter noted deployment of 377 members to the Mozambican coast for the purpose of maritime security to minimize the piracy threat.

Mr Maynier said he did not want to revisit the issue as he had already made his point, but stated that he still felt the Committee needed an explanation of further particulars regarding the naval operations. He made a new point about whether the letters raised questions of compliance with section 201(3) of the Constitution. He did not recall receiving similar letters of notification for deployments for a border safeguarding mission and the World Cup in 2010. He added that the sending of the SAS Drakensburg to the Ivory Coast was not captured in these letters either. He asked the Committee Researcher to check if Parliament had been informed of these three missions; if they were not, he suggested that the Committee would have to take a position on how to deal with that, and stated that going forward, they needed to monitor compliance with 201(3).

Mr P Pretorius (DA) followed up on the issue of 201(3), stating that it was clear that such notice from the President was required to be prompt. These letters indicated that notification had not been prompt. He asked the Committee Researcher to further consider whether the time delay with these letters was in compliance with 201(3).

The Chairperson said he would request the Committee Researcher and Secretary to try to find the letters Mr Maynier alluded to, but noted that they would have been received a long time ago. He proceeded to discuss the Committee’s report on the SANDF and South African Police Service (SAPS) during the local government elections and the deployment of the SAPS in other countries. He noted these missions were to ensure safe elections, and referred to missions in Mozambique, the DRC, and the Central African Republic.

A member noted acceptance of the letters before the Committee.

Mr Maynier asked for his objections to the letters be reported for the reasons he and his party had raised.

The Chairperson said he could raise the issue of promptness.

Mr Pretorius remarked that the dates on the letters were when they were written by the office of the President, not when they were received by Parliament.

The Chairperson asked the Committee members not to get into this issue, because the office of the President had its own procedures it followed. He suggested they could consult the State Law Advisor to explain how these procedures worked.

Mr Maziya brought attention to the Committee’s motion to accept the letters, saying it could not be done because there was not a quorum present at the meeting.

Mr Maynier agreed with Mr Maziya. He also reminded the Chairperson of his objection about the reporting of previous deployments.

Mr Maziya said that Mr Maynier’s objections could not be made official either due to the lack of a quorum. He articulated that the Committee could not function without such, and all they could do at this meeting was acknowledge what was before them and adopt the resolutions on another day. He suggested they conclude the day’s business so that the Committee functioned as it was supposed to.

Consideration of Third and Fourth Term programmes
The Chairperson stated that the Constitution called for this Committee to be made up of 40 members, but that number had been reduced to its current amount of 18. He noted that a quorum was 50 percent plus one, which would be ten members in this case. He said they could assist members in the next meeting to ensure that the Committee was functional. He then moved to the consider Committee programmes, and asked if all Members had received copes. He began on the Third Term programme, which started on 2 August. He noted that this work was “under the bridge” and looked ahead to 1 September, which was misprinted on the document as 1 August. The issue to be dealt with for the next meeting was special pensions, to which he noted the relevant legislation had been amended to accommodate those who were 35 or older in 1996. He said it was incumbent on the special pensions office that they inform members who were to be beneficiaries, but remarked that the office had been dragging its foot in the process. There was a concern that Members would fall by the wayside and not benefit. The 1 September meeting would allow the Committee to engage with the special pensions office to ensure that members received their benefits. He said another issue was non-statutory force (NSF) pensions, noting that this type of pension was bought and was a joint contribution between the beneficiary and the state. He added that if necessary, the Committee could schedule an oversight trip to Pretoria to make sure things were being done right.

Mr Mlambo followed up by saying the Committee should go straight to the Treasury, as it was not clear which department was being talked about.

The Chairperson noted that minutes had not been adopted yet and should be added to the programme. He then proceeded to the Fourth Term programme, which began on 20 October when the Committee was to meet with the Chief of the Army, and would continue to engage the SANDF to check on their progress and demography in the various ranks and the improvement of conditions for personnel. The Chief of the Air Force was scheduled to appear on 28 October, and the Chief of the Navy on 1 November. He recapped what he presented as the core issues to be dealt with for the remainder of the year.

Mr Maynier said there was a broader question with regard to the programme which needed to be addressed, articulating that the Committee needed to know what was the role of this Committee as well as what was the division of labour between this Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans supposed to be. This had not been properly established. He was not satisfied with the functioning of this Committee, and further stated that effective oversight of the SANDF had collapsed.

The Chairperson interrupted Mr Maynier’s comments and asked if any member wanted to add something to the programme to conclude the day’s business.

Mr Maynier said he wanted to make a point about the programme and requested a point of order.

The Chairperson said Mr Maynier was out of order on the rules, and he would be allowed to speak after the programme was adopted.

Mr Maynier asked how he could make his point if the programme was already going to be adopted.

The Chairperson stated that Mr Maynier could abstain or vote against adoption.

Ms M Dikigale (ANC; Limpopo) seconded adoption.

Mr T Mofokeng (ANC; Free State) also noted adoption.

Mr Maynier stated his objection to the programme on the grounds that his letters about the programme to the joint Chairperson (Mr J Maake (ANC), not present at this meeting), had not been acknowledged or responded to. He said if his input was not appreciated, he would prefer to be told so.

The Chairperson said that if a Member wanted to make further suggestions to the programme, they could do so. He noted that Mr Maynier had previously made submissions and these had been inserted in the programme. He said it was unfortunate that Mr Maynier had forgotten this.

Mr Maynier remarked that the Chairperson was not informed about what was going on in his own Committee. He asked the Committee Secretary to confirm that she received his correspondences and said it seemed that she had not delivered these to the Chairperson. He noted various issues he had raised which had not been addressed, noting 50 or so complaints that had not been replied to.

The Committee Researcher said he had made suggestions about how work between this Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and he could email those documents again.

The Chairperson requested that these documents be given to the Committee Secretary and then pigeonholed to the all the Members. He asked if there were any other issues the members wanted to raise.

Mr Maynier asked if copies of documents from the oversight visit to Pretoria could be distributed. He said he had made this request previously and did not receive a response. He also asked the Committee Secretary to resend the Pretoria programme so that he could scrutinise it for an anti-piracy briefing and note his apology for absence.

The Chairperson advised Members to work as a team, and added that they should follow up on apologies. He thanked the Members for their attendance and moved to adjourn. Before concluding, he noted apologies from Mr Maake and Ms N Mabedla (ANC), and noted that this should have been done at the beginning of the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: