Committee Programme: preliminary deliberations

Defence

15 February 2012
Chairperson: Mr S Montsitsi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee did not have a quorum, with the result that the programme and minutes could not be adopted. However, Members present did discuss issues arising from the draft programme. They firstly noted that although the Office of the Presidency was supposed to forward letters deploying military personnel to this Committee within seven days after signature by the President, this had not been done in respect of deployments as far back as November 2011. A Member of the Committee noted that he had written to the Ministry querying the issue but had received no reply. Another Member insisted that it was the Office of the Presidency who bore responsibility and suggested that the matter be followed up. He also pointed out that even when letters were sent, they did not always indicate the financial implications of such deployment, as required by the Defence Act. The matter would be followed up.

Members were asked to review the programmes and issues that should be included in the Committee’s Annual Report. In addition, it was noted that input was needed from Members, for the Defence Review Committee, and Members agreed that it would be useful to have a workshop. A Member noted that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had never briefed Parliament on its state of military readiness, and he had written to the co-Chairpersons suggesting that this must be arranged, and further that a special hearing be arranged with the Chief of the South African Air Force, and 21 Squadron, to discuss wasteful expenditure, safety issues on flights where the Deputy President was being flown, flawed tender processes and the shadow plan for the President. It was noted that although a presentation had been given by the South African Air Force, it was unsatisfactory and the delegation was asked to return with a full report on all concerns raised by the Committee.

Another matter that would require attention was military veterans who were not covered by pensions, and it was suggested that special hearings might need to be arranged, and that it would be useful for this Committee to have a study tour to countries who had been seized with veterans’ issues. Furthermore, it would be necessary for the Committee to conduct a tour of local military bases, as well as doing the oversight visit that could not be arranged in the previous year.

Meeting report

Apologies and quorum
The Chairperson announced apologies from Mr A Maziya (ANC) and Co-Chair Mr J Maake (ANC) who were recently hospitalised. Mr D Bloem, (COPE, Free State) and Ms M Dikgale (ANC, Limpopo) sent apologies as they were attending the public hearings on the Protection of State Information Bill in Gauteng. He noted that there was not a quorum, so the outstanding Minutes and Committee Programme could not be finally adopted. However, there were some issues that could be discussed by Members who were present.

Deployment of Military Personnel: Letters from Office of Presidency  
The Chairperson announced that the Parliamentary Research Unit had noted that letters deploying military personnel should reach this Committee seven days after being signed by the President. However, there were instances of deployment dating back to November and December 2011, where no letters had been forwarded to the Committee. The Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans also had a role to play. The Chairperson asked Mr E Mlambo (ANC) if he had managed to get responses from any of the parties concerned.

Mr E Mlambo (ANC) confirmed that he had written to the Ministry, but was yet to receive a response.

Mr D Maynier (DA) stated that since the letters came from the Office of the Presidency, it was that office who was responsible for failing to comply with the Defence Act. Even when letters were delivered, they did not always indicate the financial implications of such deployment, as required by the Defence Act.

Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked for clarity on how the Presidency could be responsible for assessing the financial implications of such deployments, which should surely be stated by the Department of Defence (DoD or the Department).

The Chairperson suggested that Members should await the relevant responses from the Presidency and Ministry of Defence. He added that the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation might also be involved in cases where deployment was to areas in other countries.

Mr M Manzini (ANC) added that when the Presidency wrote to a Parliamentary committee, the letter would be directed through the Office of the Speaker, and he suggested that this office could also be approached.

Mr Maynier insisted that any fault lay with the Presidency, and felt that the Committee should query the matter directly with the Presidency.

Committee’s Annual Report
The Chairperson announced a deadline of March 2012 for Members to submit a review of programmes and issues dealt with by the Committee in the previous year. He asked that Members should read through the minutes, and asked that the Committee Secretary be ready to assist.

Defence Review Committee
The Chairperson announced that the Defence Review Committee had been established, and input was needed from Members as to the future of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). He suggested that possible issues for consideration might include the SANDF’s readiness for cyber-war, and whether there was sufficient capacity at the Armscor and Denel, the Defence Equipment production parastatals to deal with such threats. He also suggested that Members should read through the 1996 Defence White Paper and the 1998 South African Defence Review, which the Secretary should make available. He asked for input whether Members thought that a meeting, or a workshop, or written submissions and responses would be the appropriate method of communicating with the Defence Review Committee.

Ms Daniels suggested that the programmes of both the Portfolio Committee on Defence and the Joint Standing Committee be considered, as the engagement should take place simultaneously at both committees.

Mr E Mlambo suggested that, in view of the amount of preparatory reading, if would be useful to arrange a workshop.

Mr B Fihla (ANC) agreed with this suggestion.

Mr D Maynier stated that the SANDF had never briefed Parliament on its state of military readiness. He had written to the co-Chairpersons of this Committee on 25 January 2012, requesting an urgent special hearing with the South African Air Force and 21 Squadron to discuss wasteful expenditure, as well as safety concerns related to emergency landing incidents when carrying the Deputy President (in the Congo in 2009 & New Zealand 2011) but he had not received a response. The flawed tender for the purchase of two VIP jets, and the recent scandal involving a shadow plane for the President should also be discussed in this meeting. He suggested that the delegation should be led by the Chief of the Air Force Lieut-Gen Carlo Cagiano, and the 21 Squadron Commanding Officer.

Ms Daniels reminded Mr Maynier that a delegation, led by the Chief of Air Force, had met with the Committee at a meeting from which Mr Maynier was absent. The presentation had been unsatisfactory and the delegation was asked to return with a full report on all the concerns raised by the Committee.

Mr D Maynier said that he had seen the minutes of that meeting. However, he was now suggesting also that the meeting with 21 Squadron, as well as the Chief of the Air Force, must be held.

The Chairperson added that the previous delegation was questioned on the effect of transformation and the possibility of changing the company used to charter flights for the Presidency. The Committee had also expressed concerns with the leadership of the Chief of the Air Force.

Mr D Maynier asked that aspersions not be cast on the Chief at this point, but that a meeting be set up in line with his request to the co-Chairpersons.

Military Veterans not covered by pensions
The Chairperson highlighted the economic plight of military veterans not covered by the pension funds in terms of the Military Veterans Act of 1996. He reminded Members of the proposals adopted by Parliament after the visit to Algeria, and of the public hearings on the Special Pensions. He felt that hearings might need to be arranged with the South African Military Veterans Association (SAMVA), National Treasury, and the Special Pensions Board. There was a link between transformation and veterans’ issues. He also suggested that it might be useful to visit countries that had dealt with veterans’ issues, such as Vietnam and the USA, during June and July.

Ms Daniels suggested that the co-Chairpersons should outline the issues, with a view to drawing up a motivation for the visit.

The Chairperson agreed and added that a tour of local military bases, to assess the progress made on transformation and quality of living conditions for military personnel, might also be necessary.

Mr Manzini agreed that it fell within the Committee’s oversight responsibilities to visit local bases.

Ms N Mabedla (ANC) added that the local oversight visit planned for the previous year had not taken place. She agreed that it must be done this year, with visits also to internal bases and other countries.

The Chairperson asked that the issues discussed be put into point form for the draft programme and reminded Members to read through the minutes, in preparation for drawing the Committee’s annual report.

The meeting was adjourned.



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