Defence Bill: deliberations

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Defence and Military Veterans

11 June 2002
Chairperson: Ms Modise (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to suggest further amendments to the Defence Bill in an effort to finalise the bill. Two separate discussions took place. First, the Committee discussed the functions of the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force with respect to investigations within the Department of Defence. The Chief of the Defence Force attended this portion of the discussion and advised the Committee on his opinion concerning the matter. The second point of contention concerned employing the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in co-operation with the South African Police Service. The Committee feared that SANDF is not properly trained or equipped to handle civilian policing matters.

Meeting report

Ms Modise began the meeting by stating her intention to go back to the proposals on the policing powers of the military and then carry on where the Committee left off at Clause 68. The Department lawyer directed Ms Modise's attention to the presence of the Chief of the Defence Force, and he requested that the Committee allow the Chief time to submit an amendment to Clauses 9 and 10. The Committee granted the request.

The Chief of Defence stated that in its current form Clauses 9 and 10 would give the Secretary for Defence too much power over the office of the Chief of Defence. Although the Chief realises the need for civilian oversight, he felt that the clauses would burden his ability to act as Chief. In 9(a) the Chief submitted that the Committee add "in the Defence Secretariat" after "any employee". The Committee agreed. In 9(c) the Chief submitted that the Committee add "or employee" to the subitem, and the Committee agreed again.

The Chief also felt that Clause 10 confused the line of command by allowing the Secretary of the Defence too much latitude in conducting departmental investigations. The Chief requested that the Committee discard the entire Clause. Mr Blaas (NNP) and Mr Jankielsohn (DP) suggested that Clause 10 be amended rather than scrapped altogether. Ms Modise (ANC) contended that the Secretary of Defence must be able to take account and follow through with an investigation as the accounting officer; otherwise, the creation of a Secretariat is purposeless.

Mr Hoon (SLA) suggested that subitem (b) when read in connection with (a) limits the investigation powers of the Secretary, and that perhaps the Committee could amend 10(b) to involve the Chief of the SANDF in matters of the SANDF. The Committee agreed to draft language that would require the Secretary of Defence to consult with the Chief of the SANDF concerning investigations that concern the Defence Force. The Chief agreed that this was a fair compromise; however, he wanted the investigations to be performed only by the Inspector General and not "any employee…within the Department." The Committee explained that the Secretary must have the authority to instruct any employee to investigate a matter because a situation may arise in which the Inspector General must be investigated. The Chief conceded the point.

The Chief of the Defence Force then excused himself to attend another meeting, and the Committee turned their attention to Chapter 3 of the Defence Bill that covers the employment and use of the Defence Force. After the Department presented Chapter 3 to the Committee, the Committee members took turns expressing their hesitation and apprehension in regards to allowing the SANDF to act as a police force.

Mr Schmidt (DP) expressed his fear that the Bill broadens the scope of the military too much. He pointed out that the Constitution already allows for temporary employment of the SANDF in times of emergency as directed by the President in terms of Section 202(2)(a) and he worried that Clauses 18 and 19 would allow for a permanent military presence in civilian policing.

The Department representative responded that the constraints of the Constitution continue to manage the employment of troops for civilian policing. The President still has the authority to employ troops and he must still inform Parliament after doing so. However, this Bill just sets out the guidelines that are already being used by the President in determining how to use the Defence Force. In this way, the Department argues that this bill does not broaden the Constitution, it only clarifies it.

Mr Blaas' main concern focused on training the troops to appropriately handle civilian operations. Mr Jankielsohn agreed that training is a major issue for the troops, but that equipping the troops properly is incredibly important as well. For example, assault rifles are not necessary when being deployed to handle crowd control. Ms Modise said she felt a great deal of anxiety concerning this part of the bill. She recalled when the military used to have tanks patrolling the townships as a sign of military force. Although big, scary guns may be an effective way of establishing order, improperly applied force can cause unnecessary death and destruction.

The Chairperson said she feared that these military personnel are trained to kill, and she noted that the mentality of a person who joins the military versus that of a person who enters the police force is entirely different. She worried that military personnel are not suited for civilian efforts. In matters concerning activities within the country, the Committee must put the welfare of the civilian population first. She stated that unless the Department can guarantee that a soldier has had proper training and equipping before being deployed in a civilian policing operation then these Clauses will be omitted.

The Chief of the Navy responded that this bill is necessary to protect both servicemen and civilians. At the moment, the SANDF has no set instructions on how to operate in its constitutionally proscribed police role. Furthermore, this bill protects civilians by making a soldier as liable as a police officer to tort claims and to the code requiring use of only the minimum amount of force to control a situation. The Department promised that police training for soldiers has taken place, and that it will continue to be an emphasis of a soldier's training.

Mr Jankielsohn submitted an amendment to the Clause that would require training and appropriate equipping of each soldier used in a policing operation before that operation begins. His amendment is worded as follows: "Member of the SANDF employed in terms of Clause 201(2) of the Constitution must receive prior to employment training and must be equipped according to the employment." Agreeing that Mr Hoon would polish this amendment, the Committee unanimously agreed to adopt it.

The meeting was adjourned.


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