The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans briefed delegates from the Republic of Vietnam on how they worked as a committee of the South African Parliament, and their responsibilities in respect of national defence security. Committee Members said that their responsibility was to oversee the work of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans by making sure that it had the necessary resources to be able to function. They had to make sure that South Africa’s defence force was always in a good position to protect the country. They also worked under the United Nations (UN) to assist other countries when they were challenged with stability issues.
Vietnamese delegation said that from what had been presented to them, they had established that there were similarities between South Africa and Vietnam’s functions and responsibilities, especially when it came to the functions of oversight, making laws and decisions on national defence. They asked for details on how the Committee operated from a personnel and budget viewpoint, how bills were processed through Parliament, and the agencies that supported it.
They pointed out that Vietnam had gone through big wars against France and America, and therefore they had a huge number of veterans that had sacrificed themselves for the freedom of their country. They described the various levels of veterans’ associations, and said that they were well structured and organised.
The Chairperson apologised for the meeting starting a few minutes late, but said that Parliament was very hectic, and most of the Committee members were attending other committee meetings. He then gave an opportunity for Committee members to introduce themselves.
Mr Vo Trong Viet, Lieutenant General, Member of Central Committee of the Communist Party, Member of Standing Committee of the National Assembly, Chairman of the Committee on National Defence and Security, Head of Delegation, said that his delegates were comprised of police and military officers, and his committee always dealt with national defence and national security issues, and they also covered military veterans. The purpose of their visit to South Africa was to learn how the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans functioned, and what were their responsibilities in the area of national defence were.
The Chairperson said that he welcomed the Vietnam delegates to the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, and hoped that by the end of the meeting they would have gained a lot of information for themselves. Vietnam’s revolution and liberation movement had inspired them when they were young.
Briefing by Portfolio Committee
The Committee briefed the delegates from Vietnam about the Committee, including their responsibilities with regard to national defence.
The Chairperson said the Committee conducted oversight on its constitutional mandate mainly to defend the security of the country, and to protect its citizens, which he believed was a constitutional mandate in all countries of the world. The Committee consisted of members of the ruling and opposition parties. There was also a joint committee that normally dealt with matters which were not meant for public consumption. He then gave an opportunity to other Committee Members to further explain the Committee’s duties to the delegation.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) said that the only thing she would like to highlight was that in South Africa, during the month of August, women’s leadership was celebrated, and also the fact that the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was a woman. Women were always fighting for 50/50 representation for both men and women in the country, and although it had not been achieved yet, hoped as women that they would continue fighting for it.
Mr G Skosana (ANC) added that their responsibility as a Portfolio Committee was to perform an oversight role over the work of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, working hand in hand with various stakeholders that were involved in organising the defence force and other key role players. Their duty as the Committee was to make sure that South Africa’s defence force was always in a good position to to defend the country, and that the Department had all the necessary resources to perform their duties. The Committee reported to the National Assembly in Parliament on their activities. When there were issues, the National Assembly referred them to the Committee to investigate and address them. The Minister and the Deputy Minister of the Department also accounted to the Committee in respect of their day to day work, what they were doing and how far they had progressed in executing the responsibilities given to them by Parliament.
He said that South Africa intervened and assisted when it came to issues of stability in other countries. South Africa had troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who were trying to assist in a peace keeping mission, and were working under the United Nations. The issues which South Africa was looking at, was how it could assist other countries when they had challenges, to make sure that there was peace. In April, South Africa had also been in the DRC to look at the well being of their troops in that country, to see that they were being taken care of, and assessing the situation and the challenges they were facing.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked how many members the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veteran had.
The Chairperson replied that it had 10 members.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked if there was a budget for the Committee.
The Chairperson said that there was a budget for the Committee.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked if there was any supporting agency that was serving the Committee, like advisers or experts who were working to support its Members.
The Chairperson said that they had secretaries, researchers and advisers.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked how many people were in the committee secretariat.
The Chairperson said that they had five, which included the adviser and a researcher.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked what the process of reviewing a bill at the Committee level was.
The Chairperson said that they got briefings that were then publicised in order to get comments from the public.
Mr Vo Trong Viet asked how the Committee received public comments.
The Chairperson said that the briefings were advertised in all kinds of media, or the Committee called public hearings, where they invite all relevant institutions to Parliament.
He then gave an opportunity for Committee members to ask delegates from Vietnam questions.
Ms Mnisi said she wanted to know what the Republic of Vietnam’s best practices around the issue of defence and military veterans were.
Mr Vo Trong Viet thanked the Committee Members for sharing information with them about how their committee worked. He said it was their first time in South Africa, and he would like to congratulate South Africa on its development. He thought South Africa and Vietnam share common things, because they had both gone through liberation movements.
The functions and responsibilities that the Committee had shared were familiar, as they were very similar to Vietnam’s. South Africa and Vietnam had similarities in the functions of overseeing, making laws, and decisions on national defence. Vietnam had gone through big wars against France and America, and therefore they had a huge number of veterans that had sacrificed themselves for the freedom of their country. On one hand, Vietnam’s Veterans’ Committee had to make sure that veterans benefited, and on the other hand, to make sure that they would remain warriors. Their country had people who had devoted their lives for the country, and those who had lost their loved ones, and these were their efforts as a country for those people.
Regarding the organisation of veterans, they had different organisations from the central to the local level. They had a central veterans’ association, where the Senior Lieutenant General of the committee was a former Deputy Minister of Japan. From the local level it went down to the provincial level, and then on to the community level. To be a member of the Veterans’ Committee, one had to be either a retired police officer, a former soldier, or anyone who came from the military. Every veterans’ committee, from central to local, had its own internal rules and regulations, and were well organised. People who were members of these committees had pensions as veterans, and a salary as members -- they get paid extra. He added that the purpose of Government when it passed a law to have these committees had been to keep those veterans as soldiers in an economic development environment. The veterans also taught the younger generation about the desire for freedom. These veterans were also mediators and negotiators for domestic violence. He said that there were a number of veterans who owned big companies, because they received favourable conditions or treatment from the Government.
Mr Skosana asked if Vietnam also had women in their committee.
Mr Vro Trong Viet replied that they had three women in their committee.
Ms Mnisi thanked the delegates from Vietnam for coming to South Africa. She said that the Committee hoped that they would get the best treatment ever in the country, and that their visit was the beginning, not the end. She said that South Africa and Vietnam had started their engagement, and she hoped that it would continue.
The meeting was adjourned.
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