White Paper on Peacekeeping: discussion


26 March 2003
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Meeting report


26 March 2003

Ms. T. R Modise (ANC)

Documents handed out
White Paper on South African Participation in International Peace Mission

The Committee heard that South Africa's participation in peace-keeping missions was based upon the clear international mandate from the UN Security Council Resolution and the availability of sufficient means to execute that mandate. The other pre-requisite for such operations was the domestic mandate and budgetary allocation, which would be made available by the executive with the notification of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Members discussed the Department of Defence's practice of by-passing Parliament when deploying forces for peace missions which in itself contravened the White Paper on peace missions. Members singled out Burundi mission as one case where members learnt of developments through the media. The committee called on the Department to ensure that Parliament was fully briefed before matters were taken to the media.

The Chair informed the committee that it was necessary to have another look at the Peace Keeping Mission White Paper since much had taken place since the paper was last discussed. When the paper was written South Africa had no experience in peace-keeping missions. It was important to recall the paper in order to see whether it was appropriately focused to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Briefing by Nick Sendall, Chief Director for Defence Policy
Mr. Sendall stated that the White Paper on Peace-Keeping Missions was drafted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and posted on the government website. He pointed out that the Department made a presentation to the Committee on the document in 1999 noting that although the document was a progressive one, it was nonetheless aged and would do with some refinement. The document was based on sound policy, which laid down the procedure that should be followed in commencing peace-keeping missions.

An overview was given of the policy pronouncement on the document noting that the policy guidelines that had been laid down were a product of inter-departmental in-put. The document described the nature of contemporary peace missions and provided clear and concise mechanisms that would be employed in peace-keeping engagement. Emphasis was made on adherence to international conventions noting that it was important to revisit the paper in view of the conversion of the OAU to AU.

The White Paper was premised on the South African philosophy regarding participation in peace missions abroad and that the overriding need was the commitment to promotion of human rights. The other fundamentals were good governance, security and international peace. A variety of interventions ranging from conflict control to management was covered in the paper. Africa was specifically targetted as the primary focus for peace-keeping missions. The military resources identified and made available in the document were up to one infantry battalion.

South Africa's participation in peace-keeping missions was based on the communication of a clear international mandate from the UN Security Council Resolution and the availability of sufficient means to execute the peace-keeping mandate. The other governing principle was the domestic mandate and budgetary allocation, which would be made available by the executive with the notification of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Parliament played the critical role of authorising the necessary budgetary allocations whilst the DOD and Safety and Security take responsibility for budgeting for the pre-deployment costs.

Mr. Sendall took members through the procedure followed in deployment of troops to peace missions noting that the DOD were responsible for management and oversight in SANDF's operations abroad. South Africa would continue to partner with other Africa countries more so its SADC counterparts and that the country was willing to accept military assistance from abroad if such assistance went towards improving the quality of peace missions.

Factors were identified that served the DOD well in past peace-keeping missions noting that there was a clear international mandate which was coupled by a national mandate from the cabinet and that there was a clear entry and excite criteria. He contended that the SANDF engagement in Burundi did not follow the traditional channels since it was a specialised task force and that this event had added another dimension to peace-keeping missions.

It was necessary to amend the White Paper to take cognisance of the AU statues and the Nepad initiative since these developments had significantly redefined the regional and sub-regional mandates. He also urged for early warning signs in order to facilitate budgetary provision and that there be clear liaison channels between SANDF and policy planners. He suggested that the country should consider posting military attaches to the UN and AU to facilitate liaison activities and that there was need to balance peace missions and national interests. Peace-keeping missions were by their very nature extremely expensive and that therefore there was need for a standby arrangement in order to facilitate rapid deployment of forces when that need became necessary.

Briefing by General Rautie Rautenbach, Director Budget Department of Defence
General Rautenbach noted that for the most part peace missions were an unforeseen occurrence and that by that very nature there was normally no budgetary provision for this development. He informed the Committee that the DOD had a deficit of R200 million that had been occasioned by peace-keeping expeditions noting that the current budget did not provide for this kind of money. There seemed to be a disconnection between presidential directives and what the National Treasury was prepared to spare. He submitted that the critical issue of contingencies had to be dealt with in some way or other.

Adv. Schmidt (DP) complained that cabinet had formed a habit of taking drastic decisions without ever informing or consulting Parliament siting the Burundi peace mission as one such glaring example. Who took the responsibility for the White Paper in case of amendments?

Mr. Sendall replied that the Department of Foreign Affairs was the originator of the document and that therefore they should lead the process with DOD's support.

Mr. Schmidt expressed concern regarding the disconnection between the proclamations made by the Presidency and what other government organs did on the ground noting that this situation was becoming a great stumbling block to smooth operation of government business.

General Rautenbach clarified that he did not mean to say there was a disconnection between government officials but rather the different developments that sent conflicting signals. Whenever the President signed a declaration it did not mean funds were immediately available for that particular activity since other processes had to run their full course and hence the occasion of a disconnection where Treasury was unable to immediately approve funding.

Mr. Diale (ANC) asked about the role of the UN in funding peace missions.

Mr. Sendall explained that where the UN sanctions a mission it does not ordinarily make provision for funding but where the UN imposes a peace mission then it shoulders the obligation to fund that operation.

Mr. Diale (ANC) lamented that Parliament is by-passed in peace-keeping missions and wondered why the procedure set out in he White Paper was not being followed.

The Chair noted that the new Defence Bill makes provision to the effect that the costing and duration of peace-keeping missions should be brought to Parliament for approval and hoped that this express proviso would assist where Parliament has been by-passed in the past.

Genera Rautenbach pointed out that Parliamentary in-put was one of advisory which Treasury considers when deciding on costing.

The Chair disagreed with Mr. Rautenboch's proposition and was emphatic that Parliament has the authority to accept or reject the costing that was tabled before it and even veto the deployment of peace-keeping missions.

Mr. Diale observed that the White Paper laid down the basis upon which Parliament should be briefed and yet this process was ignored. The new Defence Bill would address this glaring breach of procedure.

Mr. Schmidt concurred with Mr. Diale noting that when the Burundi mission was commissioned members only learned of the development through the media in which case the media in knew more about deployment to peace missions than Parliamentarians. He called on the DOD to ensure that Parliament was fully briefed before the matter was taken to the media houses.

The Chair noted that the Committee was in agreement that Parliament should be fully briefed on all peace-keeping missions as per the provisions of the White Paper and the new Defence Bill.

Mr. Middleton (IFP) noted that the White Paper appeared to suggest a change from voluntarism to compulsion in service to peace missions and sought clarification on the issue.

Mr. Morwamoche (ANC) observed that the manner in which the clause was drafted in the White Paper did not seem to indicate whether it was voluntarism or compulsion.

Mr. Sendall replied that what was contained in the white paper was consistence with the new Defence Bill.

The Chair expressed dissatisfaction with the reply and noted that this issue was extensively debated during deliberation on the Defence Bill and members generally agreed that South Africa could fail to mobilise forces for action if serving in outside missions was made on the basis of voluntarism. Members were in agreement that once a person volunteers to serve in the armed forces then consent was assumed to abide by the force's command to serve anywhere when directed to do so.

Mr. Diale concurred with the Chair and noted that provision was made for exceptional cases where one could be exempted on religious grounds or matters of conscience.

Mr. Middleton (IFP) inquired whether it was acceptable in view of national security considerations to exchange sensitive military information with regional partners to promote co-operation as suggested in the White Paper.

Mr. Sendall explained that the nature of disclosure was such that it did not jeopardise the essentials of national security. A certain level of disclosure was necessary especially for border security and the assessment of formation capability.

The Chair chipped in that it was important for the region to build bridges in all sectors of human endeavour and that for that very reason information must flow freely to facilitate integration noting that confidence building was a requisite for regional co-operation. Such a disclosure need not be of such a nature as would compromise national security.

Mr. Fihla (ANC) pointed out that it was important for South Africa to participate in peace-keeping missions in Africa in order to contribute to the promotion of stability and peace. He asked whether other African countries were bound to contribute to these peace missions.

Mr. Sendall underscored the fact that military intervention was often the option of last resort and that diplomacy took centre stage noting that the White Paper was very clear on this aspect. Other countries were willing to contribute troops to peace missions when called upon to do so by the UN.

Mr. Fihla asked about the role the UN played in funding peace mission operations.

Mr. Sendall pointed out that the UN had a set standard for remunerating Peace Corps and that it all depended on the nature of contribution a particular country had made available.

Mr. Schmidt (DP) enquired about the time-frame for mobilisation from the time of notification to deployment. This knowledge was important when considering the necessity for a specialised unit to cater for peace missions only.

General Rautenbach explained that the time frame for a successful deployment was determined by budgetary allocations noting that the DOD takes a far shorter time to mobilise than the time taken for the necessary resources to be made available. The matter becomes trickier when approaching the end year given that by then the budgetary allocations for the current financial were almost depleted.

Mr. Middleton suggested that the DOD prepare a detailed submission on their experience so far in peace-keeping mission so that the committee was given an opportunity to share in the lessons learned and challenges encountered thus far.

The Chair concurred fully with Mr. Middleton's proposition noting that it would be especially useful when the Committee would be deliberating the Defence Bill. It was prudent to take stock of the past four years with a view to re-engineer the current peace-keeping mechanisms.

The meeting was adjourned.


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