The colloquium on civil-military relations (CMR) in South Africa was characterised by robust engagements from an academic, Parliamentary, executive, Departmental and military perspective.
The Chairperson’s opening overview described CMR as a contemporary and important issue that was related to a complex web of inter-relationships, established norms and practices between the armed forces and other social structures. The broader context of CMR was that it was not a fixed process, but was continuously evolving, and while South Africa could be viewed as exemplary regarding the status of its CMR, this needed to be rigorously interrogated on a continuous basis. This was one of the reasons why the Committee had identified some issues and organised this colloquium. CMR was vital to the development of democracy, and was advanced through accountability, professionalism, a strong sense of ethics and respect for human rights. A stable and healthy CMR’s impact could be attributed to acceptance of the subordination of the military to civilian control and the professionalism of the armed forces. The purpose of the colloquium was to sensitise Members of the Defence Committees to the importance of maintaining healthy civil-military relations; to identify challenges to CMR; and to identify ways and means to address these challenges.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans provided an executive perspective of CMR, and said that the post-1994 era had brought about a need to reshape CMR in South Africa. The 1996 White Paper on Defence had paved a brand new path for military relations in the country. As a result, a coup d’etat, or undue influence over contemporary politics by the military, had been impossible, as the government of a democratic society was based on accountability. The defence force had been used to maintain security in South Africa and beyond its borders. The White Paper had laid down priorities which included the integration of defence and a structure designed to ensure sound CMR. It had referred to the hierarchy of authority: the Executive, Parliament, the Defence Force -- and civil supremacy over the military.
Lt Gen Vusi Masondo, giving a defence force perspective, supported the Minister’s statement that the Republic was characterised by a sound CMR, and attributed this to the professionalism in the SANDF. However, the defence force budget was declining and this was a threat to its capabilities. The colloquium should be used as a platform to rethink whether the nation needed a defence force, as it was not being funded to meet its constitutional mandate. A greater percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) should be allocated to funding the defence force for it to be effective and able to intervene quickly in any security matter. He felt that the Secretariat of Defence should be headed by a military officer. Civilian involvement should be restricted to the Minister and Deputy Minister and their offices. The defence force by its very nature was autocratic and not democratic. Autocracy was its culture.
Gen Bantu Holomisa said people on the African continent looked to the military to save them from autocratic, abusive and corrupt regimes that looted the national resources, but this was not the situation in South Africa. The 1994 Constitution had dictated that Parliament play an imperative role in monitoring the defence force. It approved the military budget and its operations, but needed to ensure that the state of readiness of the defence force was never compromised. He asked what the role of the SANDF in peacetime should be, and suggested it should work to support the police in ensuring the security of the country.
Prof Lindy Heinecken of Stellenbosch University was the first academic to address CMR in South Africa, and referred to the widening civil-military gap. There were two kinds of gaps -- connectivity and cultural. The connectivity gap involved the absence of physical contact (such as social ties, visibility, isolation, inward looking) and the knowledge gap (such as a lack of understanding, experience, informed decision-making, interest in the military). On the other hand, the cultural gap involved differences in culture and norms, and the balancing of military needs and core values of society that affected the functioning of the defence force.
Prof (Lt Col) Abel Esterhuyse, Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University, focused on establishing a connection between accepted CMR and strategic theory, and sharing explanations of the South African context. He was of the view that CMR interfered with the decisions of the political-military elite in a manner that sought answers as to how and why decisions were taken. These included security, structure and strategy decisions.
Dr Moses Khanyile, Managing Director: Masharps College talked about changing CMR in South Africa. He was concerned about civil society asking uncomfortable questions about various areas of the defence force. He asked whether the CMR model was suited to the contemporary situation, nationally and internationally. The Committees should take into consideration the fact that the defence force was required to respond to certain situations at short notice, and think about what it could do and could not do. In other parts of Africa, one heard of coup d’etats, but this was not the case in South Africa. That was why the Committee should find ways of ensuring that the defence force met its constitutional mandate.
Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg, Parliamentary Research Unit, referred to the Parliamentary role in shaping CMR. His presentation tracked the CRM discussion, with a particular focus on the colloquium’s key points. These included the need to re-shape CMR after 1994; the new vision for CMR in South Africa; the growing civil-military gap in South Africa and its impact on the SANDF. He questioned what role Parliament had played since 1996 in monitoring and shaping CMR in South Africa.
Members commended the presentations, and added several comments of their own. These covered issues such as the medical services offered by civilian medical doctors; the role of the reserve force in supplementing the defence force; access to information; improved cooperation between the defence force and Parliament, the capabilities of the defence force and its the rejuvenation; the military management of the secretariat; the training and recruitment of the youth; and securing the borders against illegal crossings.
The Chairperson highlighted the wide range of issues that had been raised during the discussions, and concluded that the army should be funded so it could discharge its constitutional mandate.
Orientation on civil-military relations
The Chairperson provided an orientation on civil-military relations. He said that civil-military relations (CMR) was a contemporary and important issue that related to a complex search of inter-relationships, established norms and practices between the armed forces and other social structures. The broader context of CMR was that it was not a fixed process, but was continuously evolving, and while South Africa could be viewed as exemplary regarding the status of its CMR, this needed to be rigorously interrogated on a continuous basis. This was one of reasons why the Committee had identified some issues and thus organised this colloquium.
CMR was vital to the development of democracy. This was advanced through accountability, professionalism, a strong sense of ethics and respect for human rights. Stable and healthy, CMR’s impact could be attributed to acceptance of subordination of military to civil control and professionalism of the armed forces. While one could debate merits and demerits of bureaucratic aspects of CMR, one should be mindful that the Department was concentrating on South Africa’s unique position and on what could enhance the good status of CMR.
It was indisputable that not so long ago, people lived in a rough environment where coup d’états were regular occurrences. For various reasons, these occurrences had been averted due to the stance of the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) against unconstitutional changes of governments, in addition to the general professionalisation of military forces around the continent. Professionalization of armed forces was a key, as it qualified them with a trust and as a dependable guardian of the Constitution and territorial integrity.
Another critical measure of control was Parliamentary oversight. At the centre, it was the responsibility of the Minister to fully account on behalf of the defence force. Parliamentary oversight of security sectors was a sine qua non for a functional democracy. Civilian control was a key to a functional democracy. Effective Parliamentary oversight of the defence force was dependent on defined legislative powers. Both the defence force and police force had the monopoly of organised violence, and it was crucial that these powers be consciously utilised in a responsible manner for the benefit of society. To achieve this, the armed forced ought to be subordinate to the authority of the day.
The Chairperson said that the architects of the post-apartheid South African state – as evidenced in the White Paper on Defence, aptly titled “Defence in a democracy” as well as the 1998 Defence Review -- had been keenly aware of the importance of retaining a healthy CRM based on civil control of the military. He therefore invited speakers to highlight their views on the status of contemporary CRM in South Africa, the challenges in this regard and how they believed these challenges could be addressed.
The issues linked to the purpose of the Colloquium were as follows:
- To sensitise Members of the Defence Committees of the importance of maintaining healthy civil-military relations;
- To identify challenges to CMR; and
- To identify ways and means to address these challenges.
The expected outcomes of the Colloquium were:
- To engage and evaluate the different perspectives on the status of CMR in South Africa;
- To identify the challenges and risks facing CMR in South Africa;
- Possible ways and means to address the identified challenges and risks;
- To contribute to establishing a platform for further engagements for the defence committees, civil society and academics around defence and military veterans’ issues in South Africa.
The Chairperson concluded his orientation note by stating that the Committees were looking forward to constructive engagements and hoped to derive many “take away” lessons to assist the Defence Committees to enhance and strengthen their oversight role over the Department.
Minister’s keynote address: An executive perspective on civil-military relations
Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, thanked the Chairperson for inviting her to attend the colloquium. It had occurred at an optimum moment -- at the commencement of the 6th Parliament and shortly after inauguration of the new President.
South Africa was characterised by a sound CMR. In the apartheid era, military force took the burden of politics. The post-1994 era brought about a need to reshape CMR in South Africa. This had given way to a new vision for CMR in the 1996 White Paper on Defence, which hadpaved a brand new path for military relations in the country. As a result, a coup d’etat or undue influence in contemporary politics was impossible, because the government of a democratic society was based on accountability. The defence force had been utilised to maintain security in South Africa and beyond its borders. Following the transition to a democratic government, the 1996 White Paper on Defence had laid down priorities of defence. These included the integration of defence, and the structure designed to ensure sound CMR.
Prior to the birth of democracy in South Africa, it had become clear that constitutional and legislative change in the defence force would be effected through the CMR. The change was first introduced in the Interim Constitution. Under the 1994 Constitution, a Council on Defence had been established to deal with the question of effecting change in the manner in which the defence force operated. The 1996 White Paper on Defence provided for the CMR, which referred to the hierarchy of authority: Executive, Parliament and Defence Force, and civil supremacy over the military. The White Paper had taken cognisance of section 202(1) of the Constitution, which stated that “the President as head of national executive is Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Force, and must appoint the Military Command of the defence force.” Military Command was exercised through the Ministry of Defence Force under the direction of the President. The Minister of Defence was accountable to Parliament and the Cabinet for the work of the defence force.
The 1996 White Paper on Defence had further referred to a civilian secretariat of the defence force to which the Defence Act of 2002 referred. The duties and responsibility of the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the defence force were outlined by the Defence Amendment Act of 1995. The Secretary was an accounting officer of the defence force. He/she was the principal advisor to the Minister regarding policy matters referred by the Joint Committee on the Defence Force. The legislation required the Secretary to manage the defence force for the purpose of its democratic functions and enhance Parliamentary and ministerial oversight over the functions of the defence force. The Secretary was tasked with monitoring the compliance with the constitutional and legislative mandate and to report to the President and the Minister. He/she did not engage in the military justice system.
The Minister said that the defence force had expressed their wish to move away from the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and introduce their own legislation under which they would operate. This move was reported on by the Mail & Guardian. However, when the Minister realised that the Cabinet would not support this move, she had advised the defence force to withdraw the Bill. The Bill had been introduced by the strategic planners of the defence force. However, this matter was not yet officially in the public domain.
The Minister of Defence was responsible for the powers and functions assigned by the President and ought to act in accordance with the constitutional mandate and exercise civil control over the defence force and provide political guidance to it. She/he was responsible for the effective implementation of government policies, directives and approved programmes. She/he advised the President and Cabinet on the defence and security related matters.
Civil oversight ought to be conducted by Parliament, which consisted of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Parliament participated in the legislative process as set out in the Constitution. The National Assembly was elected by people to represent them and to ensure government under the people. It ensured this by choosing the President and providing a forum for public consideration of issues and scrutinising and overseeing the executive actions. The NCOP represented provinces to ensure that provincial interests were not assailed by laws adopted by the National Assembly.
The Minister highlighted the role of portfolio committees with regard to their constitutional oversight over the defence force. These include the Portfolio Committee on Defence, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, the Portfolio Committee on Intelligence, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). The SCOPA ensured accountability for resources and financial management. The Security and Constitutional Development Select Committee in the NCOP had an oversight over defence-related laws and policies, and assessed their implications for the nine provinces of South Africa. This illustrated the nature of the CMR South Africa had.
Discipline in the defence force was very important. Rules should be applied consistently. There was a female soldier who had been charged by a military court for wearing a headscarf. This had been a subject matter of an engagement between the Minister and the Military Command Council. It had become a matter of public interest. She was not in position to say if it was right or wrong. This officer had not been wearing the scarf for the past 10 years. It was assumed that she was not listening to the command and had adopted an attitude of commanding her superiors what to do. This approach was not appropriate, because individuals could not make a determination of how the defence force could be run or function, or how people in the defence force should lead their lives. The scarf matter was in a military court and therefore the Minister could not interfere with the military justice process. At the political level, there were some engagements on critical elements of the defence force.
The Minister said that it was always not easy to explain military intervention to restore peace and order or to address certain conflicts, domestically and internationally. Interventions should easily be understood as serving only political and geopolitical considerations. Interventions in local insecurities had left the public asking burning questions. Intervention in regional conflicts was costing the lives of South African soldiers. However, humanitarian concerns would compel the defence force to deploy its units. The defence force supported the foreign policies of the country because they were approved by Parliament. The defence force – due to its expertise – had to engage in the foreign policy processes and developments.
The Minister stressed that there was no such thing as a political soldier, but a non-partisan one. A soldier ought to understand the politics of his/her nation and region as well as the geopolitics. He/she should understand political dynamics and ought to be neither active in politics nor participate in any political party. A soldier had to be neutral when it came to political engagements and participation. Failure to understand national and international politics would cause many problems.
The CMR was a bureaucratic process based on the Committee’s work, working groups’ work and coordination of the military’s work and agencies. The CMR was also about personalities, professionalism, personal relationships, solidarity, obedience, command and communications, and active civil control. There should be a harmonious relationship between civilian officials and military officials to avoid tensions in the management of the defence force. Harmonious relations should be between senior military officials and soldiers on the one hand, and the military force and civilian authority on the other.
The Minister stated the Defence Review was integral to improvement of the CMR.
The Minister concluded her opening remarks by stressing that the institutions that had been established to enhance the CMR remained intact, and continued to support the defence force in the context of their respective mandates.
Department of Defence input on civil-military relations in South Africa
Dr Sam Gulube, Secretary of Defence, South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said that the Department was present to support the Minister. In attendance were the Civilian Secretariat, Military Command and the SANDF. He introduced the delegation from the SANDF, and commented that there were entities in attendance that reported to the Minister. These included the Military Ombud, the Defence Force Service Commission, the Reserve Force and the Faculty of the Military Academy.
Dr Gulube said that, according to protocol, he was not allowed to speak after the Minister had spoken. His observation was that the CMR was being confused and misunderstood. He explained that the state consisted of three organs – executive, Parliament and judiciary -- and pointed out that the judiciary was missing in the colloquium. The Department had been established under the 1994 Constitution. The law made it clear that members of Secretariat could not be members of the defence force. This was to ensure the checks and balances of the defence force. The defence force was subject to the constitutional supremacy and rule of law.
There was a dynamic relationship between civilians and the defence force. The armed forced should comply with the Constitution and laws of the country. Non-compliance would negatively impact on the CMR. To avoid this, the professional ethics land ought to be observed. The civil medical relations should be respected as well. Medical doctors did not use weapons in providing medical care to soldiers. Their duties and responsibilities could be understood in interactions such as this. Medical doctors were not there to lead the country – but to provide care. The army was not there to lead the country, but to ensure and maintain national security. The state had provided guidelines on how military operations were conducted. The same applied to the healthcare system.
Lt Gen Vusi Masondo said most of comments at the colloquium had been provided from an academic perspective. The colloquium was aimed at dealing with challenges in the promotion of CMR. He confirmed a statement made by the Minister, that the Republic was characterised by a sound CMR. This was due to the professionalism in the SANDF. The Minister had alluded to the structure of the Department, which also promoted the CMR. He acknowledged the role played by the Secretariat to ensure a harmonious relationship between himself and the Chief of the SANDF. The duties and responsibilities were specified in the legislation but they were sometimes misinterpreted, resulting into tensions.
His focus was an issue that the Minister had been repeating in the budget speech -- the declining defence budget. It was time to reconsider whether the nation needed the defence force. The defence force was there, but it was not funded for its constitutional mandate. Yes, the economy was going through serious challenges. The national budget was aligned to political decisions. Given where South Africa came from as a country, there were social and economic disparities between communities where the majority of people were living in abject poverty.
It was, however, critical that the government focus on socio-economic developments. In his view, there should be a balance because the defence force was like an insurance policy. He was saying this because in modern life, everyone was seeking to ensure that he/she had an insurance policy. One could find that a person would use an asset accumulated over a lifetime to insure his/her life. For example, in Singapore, irrespective of performance of its economy, the defence budget was 60% of the GDP. The reason for this was simple -- it was about the value given to their life and democracy, and they did not want anyone to come and compromise that. That was the kind of balance that should be applied in South Africa. Military force had an attitude of doing what they could do. They were, however, carrying out instructions given by civilian authorities. If this continued, they would be eating themselves from the inside out, and they would think that they had a defence force, but they would be nothing else but a shell. The defence force had not provided the necessary intervention with respect to the Malawian and Mozambican floods. They had not supported them to the extent that was required simply because there was the issue of budget constraints. This impacted on the capabilities of the defence force.
Lt Gen Masondo said that arms manufacturer Denel, as a state-owned enterprise, ought to be profitable. It had to break even. It should not consume further state resources. Denel was just problematic, and was a custodian of the sovereign capabilities. This came at a cost. First, it had to support or supply the defence force and, secondly, make a profit through exports. It would not be able to export if it could not even supply enough material needed by the SANDF. If the symbiotic relationship between the SANDF and Denel were not natured properly, there would be a demise on the side of the SANDF.
Lt Gen Masondo referred to the rejuvenation of the defence force and the exit mechanisms that would allow soldiers to live in honour and dignity after retirement. This was a challenge. Other challenges included CMR in respect of the labour unions. They did not understand that the fundamental right to life was very limited. If the argument was that the labour unions should promote labour rights in the military sector, such promotion would have a greater impact on the capabilities of SANDF, given that they did not restrict themselves to labour relations. They interfered in command control arrangements. The matters that were dealt with in the military court were taken to civilian courts, which reversed decisions taken in the military justice system. The military justice system was there to support the commanders. The rights of soldiers should be protected by the Military Ombud and the Defence Force Service Commission, and not labour unions. These entities were capable of responding to the grievances of soldiers in military domain. Civilian courts had created a major problem of discipline. Soldiers became undisciplined and that had led to the need to table the Disciplinary Bill.
By nature, the military was not democratic, but was an autocratic institution. If it were not autocratic, it would not be able to discharge its mandate. In the military domain, there was one democracy, and democracy was the commander. This was not open to debate. Testimony of the defence force was reflected in the fact that two presidents had been recalled without military intervention. That was enough to paint a picture of the SANDF’s professionalism.
Maj Gen Bantu Holomisa agreed with Lt Gen Masondo. He said that in time of war, society was willing to accept that the defence force was fighting for a just cause on the basis of its own set of values and standards. The majority of the population was happy to believe that the military was acting on their behalf and that it would do so on the basis of justness. There were two examples in South Africa’s history where that had been true -- the South African border war and the liberation struggle. The majority of people -- or a large section of society – believed in and supported those armed actions.
After the dawn of democracy, the government had been challenged by the necessity to make a paradigm shift in which the defence force had simultaneously to build an institution that was transparent, accountable and representative of societal demographics. In addition, statutory and non-statutory forces had had to be moulded into one military force. After 25 years, South Africa was still struggling to get it right. As a quick example, many defence force men and women – who came from different armed forces – had retained their positions and there was no uniformity. This had led to discrimination in promotions.
It should be agreed, however, that the defence force ought to be well funded to have a strong military presence to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and well-being of the people. The defence ought to be subservient to the state and thus refrain from threatening the people. Those in power had to guard against abusive usage of the defence force through which it could destroy democracy and human life. One needed to look at South Africa’s history to understand how serious this could be.
Gen Holomisa said that the CMR was very important. On the African continent, people looked to the military to save them from autocratic, abusive and corrupt regimes that looted the national resources. In South Africa, there had been a shift from the old approach where decisions were taken by the Security Council without consulting Parliament. The Security Council could hold the government and its people at ransom. The 1994 Constitution directed that Parliament had an imperative role to play in terms of monitoring the defence force. Parliament approved the military budget and its operations. However, Parliament should ensure that the state of readiness of the defence force was never compromised. There ought to be a healthy CMR. The salient question was, what would the role of the SANDF in the time of peace be? The military should work to support the police to ensure the security of the country. The SANDF engaged in peace keeping and intervened in humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters. They should play a meaningful role.
The Secretariat was the civilian section in the defence force. The Minister relied on the secretariat to meet his/her mandate. In developing countries, the secretariat was in the hands of military officers.
Many complaints were lodged with the Defence Force Service Commission over how the secretariat operated. It delayed in taking decisions. The defence force operated properly if decisions were quickly and effectively taken. The civilian secretariat was therefore not supported, as they did not understand how the defence force should operate. Appointing civilians to top positions undermined the manner in which military officers could take decisions to manage the defence force. The CRM should be reviewed.
He supported the view that the commander of the defence force should be the accounting officer. Civilian oversight should reside in the office of the Minister, as well as Parliament. In addition, the leadership of the defence force should prepare its own budget and submit it directly to the National Treasury. This would go a long way towards making an effective and ready defence force. For a way forward, there was a need to be realistic on what worked and what did not work, especially in maintaining national security or meeting the constitutional mandate. A disciplined military was a prerequisite and an effective defence force operated on the basis of autocratic – not democratic – decisions.
Perspectives on CMR from Parliamentarians
The Chairperson welcomed inputs and discussion, and commented that presenters would put forward different approaches, but all in the interests of the armed forces. He reminded participants that everyone, not only Members of Parliament, were welcome to express their views or provide their inputs.
Mr S Marais (DA) raised concerns about two elements -- the medical services that were provided by the private sector or civilians, and the role of the reserve force in supplementing the defence force. Members of reserve force were civilians and were acting in that capacity. Within that framework, they might not represent Parliament, but would definitely represent the populace. Some of members of the reserve force could, in certain instances, be working with civil society. He asked what the role of civil society in the defence domain could be. He commented that Members of Parliament were elected by people to represent them and to protect their interests, but their role was not highly valued by the defence force, and this had an implication regarding their ability to carry out oversight. Members of Parliament had no access to defence information because its information was classified as confidential. There was not sound cooperation between Parliament and the Department of Defence, nor between the Portfolio Committee on Defence and the Portfolio Committee on Intelligence. Parliament was unable to decide on the expenditure of the defence force because it had no information at its disposal. How much had been allocated for the compensation of employees or those fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Because Parliament and the National Treasury had not approved its tabled budget, the defence force viewed the Treasury as its biggest enemy. The fact that there was not a good relationship between these institutions and the Department was an embarrassment.
The budget constraints had implications on the rejuvenation programme of the SANDF. The capabilities of the defence force were going down because these institutions were opposing each other. There was no proper middle ground to clarify what kind of defence force South Africa needed, what South Africa wanted the defence force to do, and what South Africa could afford to ensure section 200(2) of the Constitution was implemented. South Africa was sitting with old structure and equipment, and was expected to fight a modern war. This was an embarrassment to the nation and to the President. Nonetheless, the public had high expectations of the capabilities of the defence force. He felt that Parliament could have played an oversight role on behalf of civil society, but this was not happening, so information remained inaccessible. He recommended the rejuvenation of the defence force, but this could be possible only if an adequate budget was allocated.
Prof (Lt Col) Abel Esterhuyse, Lecturer: Stellenbosch University, commented that the generals were confusing the relationship between the state and the defence force, given that the state was understood as the executive authority. Civil-military relations should be understood in the context of the government, the defence force and society, which he would allude to in his presentation. He remarked that there was an absence of civil organisations in the military domain. In the perspectives of the generals, the Secretariat of defence was another enemy on the block, in addition to the media and the National Treasury. Media and civil societies were institutions representing the people. He added that civil-military relations ought to be narrowed down.
Mr T Mmutle (ANC) argued that it was wrong to state that the National Treasury was an enemy of the defence force. An institution of the state could not be the enemy of another institution of the state. He further remarked that there was an attempt to propose legislation that the defence force would apply in lieu of the Public Finance Management Act, and asked when and how the PMFA had become problematic. The blame for the inability to deliver was being shifted to civilians. He disagreed with this understanding. He asked how there could be delays in delivery if decisions were well coordinated. For example, procurements could not be delayed if they planned accordingly. Delays were rather caused by poor planning on the side of both civilians and the military, and no side should blame the other. To say that civilians could not manage the defence force because they had not undergone military training could be compared to an argument that a liquor store could be managed by only drunkards. The generals were implying that a person ought to be a drunkard in order to understand how a liquor outlet should be managed. They were not taking into consideration that managers were people who had been trained to manage.
The Chairperson agreed. The generals were implying that the incumbent Minister could not head the department, and such an understanding was constitutionally wrong. However, there were some countries which did not allow the secretariat to be in the hands of civilians and this had been the same situation in South Africa prior to 1994.
Mr M Shelembe (DA) asked why other stakeholders had not been invited to attend the colloquium, and whether other departments could support that initiative. From the perspective of protecting the border, he observed that various departments – including the Department of Home Affairs and Police and other law enforcement institutions – were involved in securing the border and ensuring that foreign nationals were crossing legally. However, this seemed to be impossible. He asked what could be done to deal with the illegal migrants in the country. The manner in which the police were attacked and embarrassed by foreign nationals was demeaning to the nation. The inability to address the issue of illegal immigration placed the country’s security in jeopardy, and so the future of the country was unclear. He commended the operation carried out in Gauteng to deal with illegal migrants, and stressed that these operations should be applied in other provinces.
Ms M Modise (ANC) remarked that the defence force was training the youth with a view of rejuvenating the defence force, but young people who were conscripted to military training for two months were not being retained as soldiers. If they were trained and sent back home, in which direction the defence force was being taken? Was the youth military training feasible and sustainable? The extension of the retirement age from 60 to 65 was problematic. In this case, how would the youth be retained and how would the defence force be rejuvenated?
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the delegation was quite big and questions would be responded to by the generals.
She commented that she did not think the National Treasury was an enemy of the defence force or against them, because the National Treasury had imposed austerity measures across all national departments. To some years, allocations of budget had been on the decrease. It had been understandable in the beginning, because it was understood that there was a need to fund economic development programmes that addressed the needs of the majority of South Africans, who were marginalised during the apartheid era. At this point in time, the demands being made on the defence force ought to be re-aligned to the resources being allocated to it by the National Treasury. However, if one looked outside South Africa – especially at members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – one would see that these countries allocate a bigger proportion of their budgets to their military forces than South Africa did. If one looked at the capabilities they were procuring, one would see that they more advanced militarily than South Africa. Surprisingly, in the SADC region, South Africa was a developed and advanced country, but was one which could not procure advanced capabilities. It was an important issue to make.
Everyone should understand the budget constraints which had been imposed for the sake of the generally competing interests of the country. However, there came a time that the government needed to decide on the defence force it needed to have. She referred the Chairperson to the Defence Review of 2015, and emphasised that it had defined the defence force that the nation wanted. The colloquium should determine whether there was a need for a Defence Review in 2019, which the Department would be eager to undertake. However, the Review was time consuming and costly due to its complexity. The reality was that the allocation of budget to the defence force should be a matter not restricted to just the Department, but of concern to all departments and state institutions. They should appreciate the challenges the defence force was confronted with.
The Minister said security was of concern to everyone. For example, the defence force had never planned to be in Western Cape. They were there, enforcing law and order. There was a need to have a budget for operations such as these whereby, if the defence force was needed, they could intervene. In some cases, there was a need for a memorandum of understanding with provincial governments with regard to instances in which the defence force could intervene. If there were no budget constraints, the defence force could do its work according to the nation’s expectations.
She recognised that the Committee on Intelligence did good work. By its very nature, the defence force was shrouded by secrecy. There were matters that were in the public domain, like the special defence account. Regarding the inaccessibility of information, the Minister remarked that there was a lot of information she could not have access to, because she was also advised that such information was classified. If she asked questions, she would be given a long story, instead of short factual answers.
She recommended that the defence force should speak out on matters that were highly confidential. For example, everyone knew that the special defence account was for acquisition of capabilities for the SANDF. There was nothing preventing the generals from approaching Parliament and spelling out the projects at hand. However, it became a problem when Members were seeking deep details on those projects. Parliament should appreciate the fact that it was not everything that should be disclosed to it. Parliament should create a conducive environment for the defence force to trust it with the information given to it. The defence force ought to be assured that the information would reside with Parliament and would never go beyond it. The Joint Committee on Defence was no more effective and was no longer trusted. It should operate at the same level as the Joint Committee on Intelligence.
There was a situation where the Department had no authority to spend on the compensation of employees simply because some of the projects were not funded. Certain funds might be transferred to the compensation of employees. However, due to budget constraints, the compensation of employees had had to be reduced.
The Minister referred to Denel, which was an important defence contractor in the domestic market and a key supplier to the SANDF. The country needed to accept that Denel was going down. It could not deliver, even if it was bailed out by the government, and this would have a severe impact on the capabilities of the SANDF.
The Department had been raising various concerns and asking many hard questions with respect to the reserve force. She was aware that the defence force was reliant to the reserve force. Equally, there were enormous challenges – simply because the reserve force was different from the old structure, when its members were in employment. They had jobs and salaries, and when they were called they knew they were coming to serve for a short period of time. Today, members of the reserve force were mainly unemployed and if they were called, they hoped that they could serve their duties for the purpose of living. This had created tension among members of reserve force, and had brought the Department to the question of how the youth could be called, trained, retained or used to achieve a certain goal.
In the upcoming Indaba, the Department should speak about challenges they were facing. For example, the SANDF was suffering from a shortages of medical doctors, but it was not making a call for medical doctors to come in and close the gap – as reserve force members. Even those who applied to join the SANDF as reserve force members were not allowed. These medical doctors were not looking for jobs as some had their own clinics or were employed. There was something like resistance in the form of a gatekeeping in the SANDEF. A solution should be found for this problem. People who had been deployed in the DRC were from reserve force and had included medical doctor. There were women of good heart and will, who were willing to join the reserve force and if they met the requirements, they should be allowed. They should not be turned away.
The Chairperson commented that it was a concern that the youth were being trained but not retained. This matter should be engaged on to ensure the defence force retained the young blood.
The Minister talked about issues of rejuvenation and the extension of retirement age plan, which she had announced four years ago. The first point she wanted participants to appreciate was that the defence did not have a succession plan. This position was different in other countries, where it was easy to identify a person who would be next Chief of Staff in a senor military officers’ delegation. In South Africa, there was no such plan. For example, no one was being prepared to take over from Lt Gen Mazondo. What would happen if he left or died? South Africa tended to train a successor for a period of two to three years. She disagreed with this approach. A potential person in their 30s and 40s should, at an early stage of their careers, be identified and trained to take over from top senior military officials.
There was a need to introduce a retirement succession plan. The retirement age had been extended because those senior officials at 60 years of age were those who knew where the SANDF came from and where it was going. In spite of that, there should also be a rejuvenation plan with the aim of retaining the youth and integrating them in the defence force. There should be a youth service plan. The question was whether the generals knew how many youths had been trained, where they lived, what they were doing, and how they could be utilised for the benefit of defending the nation, and not to have them merely in reserve force – without knowing what was happening to them. The young people who had been trained were abandoning military service because a military career was not their first choice. They had undergone military training in the hope of being employed. They were no longer interested in the army after discovering that there was no permanent employment as soldiers. Of serious concern was that they could be employed by criminal syndicates. The training of youth was not were understood by the youth, and was not articulated to them clearly.
Gen Masondo said that the youth training programme was to ensure that there was a young, healthy, dynamic and fit force that could be deployed. There should be a small regular force that could be supplemented by a big reserve force if the country had to go to war. The problem was that most of the youth joined the programme because they understood that upon the completion of training, they would be offered permanent jobs. However, the SANDF engaged with them and assisted them to get jobs. This was done to ensure that they remained in the defence force. It became clear that those who were unemployed were unwilling – if called – to come back and serve as members of reserve force. The youth that would be used to rejuvenate the defence force would be retained from the reserve unit. They failed to understand that they were serving on a part time basis and not on a full time basis as a regular force.
Regarding poor planning that might be causing delays in procurements, Gen Masondo responded that the defence force was always good at planning. If the defence force was adequately funded, he would be able to deploy units at short notice. It became difficult to deploy within 24 hours. There was a long procurement system that was creating constraints on the capabilities of the defence force to function as a professional operation.
The Chairperson said that the matter of budgetary constraints should be discussed when the National Treasury was present. The discussion would explore the possibility of bypassing the PFMA.
Gen Holomisa made a request for the Department to brief the Committee on the promotions and exit strategy for those people who were supposed to go home. If the Department was not careful, the issue might affect the morale of soldiers. If the commander had to go home, he had to go home. He did not buy the argument of the Minister that they had to identify a young person to be groomed into senior or top positions. Officers were trained in management, and to be ready to take over. The question rather was whether the person one would like to appoint was effective and relevant. The whole defence force industry could not be put on hold on the basis of the explanation put forward by the Minister. This issue should be discussed and exhausted at the next meeting of the Committee.
CMR in South Africa: The widening civil-military gap
Prof Lindy Heinecken, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. Stellenbosch University, took the Committee through a presentation that focused on what caused the gap in CMR, the nature of the gap, exploration of whether the gap mattered or not, and how the gap could be addressed.
She said that there were two kinds of gaps: connectivity and cultural. The connectivity gap was explained in the context of the absence of physical contact (social ties, visibility, isolation, inward looking) and in the context of a knowledge gap (a decline in understanding, experience, informed decision-making, interest in the military). On the other hand, the cultural gap was defined in the context of different cultures and norms (convergence/divergence) and the balancing of military needs and core values of society (that affected the functioning of the defence force). While the consequences of the connectivity gap were further identified as functional, institutional and policy gaps, the consequences of the cultural gap were identified as leading to discord in military and society (legitimacy and status), demographic deficits (recruitment) and a decline active citizen participation (relevance).
The causes of the connectivity gap were invisible institution, little understanding of roles and functions, a decline in knowledge production and a relationship with the media. Gaps in terms of the cultural context were caused by tensions between democratic values and military values, as well as ensuring societal demographics in terms of recruitment.
These gaps could be addressed by reaching out to civilians. Civilians should have active involvement in defence debates and knowledge production, and critical debate ought to be encouraged.
The Minister said Ms Heinecken was correct, and she agreed with most of comments she had made. The presentation should serve as a moment of reflection, especially the issue of gaps in the cultural, institutional, societal, functional and connectivity context. This should not be read to state that she agreed with every criticism. Rather, she agreed with most of the criticisms levelled against the defence force. The main problem was the inability of the defence force to communicate with media in order to reach the civilians. She did not accept that between 1994 and 2004, civilian engagements had gone down to zero. There was a time they had gone under the Defence Review, and there had been a lot of engagements. There was the question of capability in the defence force which had an impact on communications. There were members of the SANDF who had died in the Central African Republic, and nothing had been explained through media. There should be talks on the capabilities of the SANDF as well as introducing activities or programmes in schools that would motivate learners to pursue careers in the military domain.
The Minister agreed that there were issues with the labour unions in the military industry. They were taking the Department to court on decisions that had been taken internally with regard to disciplinary action. There were also fair demands from soldiers. There were soldiers who had been involved in criminal activities, and there had been criminal proceedings against them. There had been anger. They had gone to the civilian courts and won, and the defence force had had to accept them back. Two weeks ago, students at the military academy had won a case against the defence force. Labour unions were there to challenge the decisions of the defence force, even if those decisions were correct within the notion of the military system. The defence force had to enforce discipline in order to have a disciplined and professional force. There was another case that the department was dealing with. The Department was interacting with human rights lawyers on the question of land belonging to the SANDF which was being illegally occupied by people. However, these people were not willing to vacate the land and the court was of the view that the SANDF should allow people to stay.
The Minister concluded that the criticisms were accepted and would be considered. She believed that the SANDF could do better in the areas in which it had been criticised. It had to improve on its communications.
The Chairperson commented that the presenter had referred to articles published in a peer-reviewed journal, and not in the newspapers. The defence force was a closed book and difficult to read, and that was the main reason it was losing cases. There was therefore a need to address the gaps in civil-military relations.
The Minister thanked all the presenters for their attendance, presentations, inputs and criticisms, and excused herself to attend to other commitments.
South Africa CMR: Fundamental observations
Prof (Lt Col) Abel Esterhuyse, Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University, took the Committee through a presentation that focused on establishing a connection between accepted CMR and strategic theory, and sharing explanations of the South African context.
In his introduction, he said that his presentation would be invoking the following scenario: “Imagine that we find ourselves in the year 2024, 30 years after South Africa’s democratisation. Given that this country only produces a Defence Review every 17 years, we still have 8 years until the next Review will see the light of day. By now, the SANDF has to know: (i) How do [the elite] conceptualise and understand national security, and the role of the military in it?; (ii) What is the purpose of national defence, and what should the overarching mission of our military strategies be?; (iii) What type of defence structure, with its associated military capabilities, do we need?.”
Prof Esterhuyse was of the view that the CMR interfered with the decisions by the political-military elite in a manner that sought answers as to how and why decisions were taken. These included security, structure and strategy decisions.
On strategic theory, Prof Esterhuyse observed that strategic outcomes were inevitable. Strategy was necessary to influence the needed outcome. He warned that avoiding tough decisions on the defence force would have strategic outcomes, mostly unintended. Those who did not make wise and timeous strategy decisions and adjustments would be forced by circumstances to make even more difficult ones with less options and time, risking losing exactly what they wanted to maintain by maintaining the status quo. Quoting from Robert Louis Stevenson, he stressed that “sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” The CMR was defined by Eliot Cohen as “… the unequal but mutually beneficial relationship between a polity and its military.” According to Clausewitz, politics as the defining “logic of war” ought to define purpose of military power and legitimise armed force or armed forces. On the other hand, Gray was of the view that the CMR should be understood in a politics context, which defined the political culture, the desired goals of government, the outlook of its people and thus shaped the organisational culture of the armed forces.
Prof Esterhuyse talked about subjective political control of the military versus objective professional subordination of the military. He referred to the book written by Samuel T Huntington entitled “The Soldier and the State.” According to Elliot Cohen, there was a need for active political control of the armed forces. The modern CMR was based on democratic and political control and had an impact on effectiveness in command, management, and missions. It increased efficiency. Efficiency was dependent on resources in the form of political capital/will, finances, and personnel for ensuring sufficient equipment, trained forces, and other assets. All of these resources should be available to implement assigned roles and missions.
The security scene was set by political elites. Security was not an objective reality, as the ruling elite provided security with content. In 1984, there was a state-based defence force. In 1994, the defence force had shifted to focusing on human security. This approach had changed in 2018 as the defence force focused on the security regime.
In his conclusion, Prof Esterhuyse said that an inadequate defence budget was not an excuse for an ineffective military. He stressed that South Africa needed a defence force that it could afford. There was a need for an organisational structure that reflected the reality of the budget. Militaries were conservative institutions and could be changed or transformed only by tough political decisions.
Changing CMR in South Africa
Dr Moses Khanyile, Managing Director: Masharps College, saidthat his discussion would be short because the CMR had been explained and everyone understood what the CMR entailed. His presentation had been reduced to what the Committees were interested in – not on a theoretical level, but at a practical level. He could have explained this better when he knew what the role of Parliament was.
He was concerned with the civil societies that were asking uncomfortable questions in various areas of the defence force. He was also concerned with the state-owned enterprises which were facing various challenges, resulting in their poor performance, financially and operationally. He was aware that the National Development Plan (NDP) was undergoing a review, and perhaps the inputs being made would find a way in that document. The question to be asked was whether the model of the CMR was suited to the contemporary situation, nationally and internationally. The Committees should take into consideration the fact that the defence force was required to respond to certain situations at short notice. That notice might be 24 or 48 hours.
The Committees should think about what the defence force could and would do. In other parts of Africa, one could hear of coup d’etats. This was not the case in South Africa. That was a reason why the Committee should find ways of ensuring that the defence force met its constitutional mandate. Interventions in circumstances, unprepared and improperly, would result in improper outcomes. There was consistency in the decisions of the Committees. The Committees would approve the defence force policies, including the Defence Review, but they would not approve the budget tabled to implement these policies. They would do so while being aware that neighbouring countries were focusing on allocating enough budget for their defence forces. Members of Committees were not trained to the extent that they could carry out their oversight mandate.
He reiterated the society should not be militarised and military should not be civilianised. Soldiers could not be deployed to peace keeping missions under-equipped, as this might result in their deaths. The Committees should take this into consideration. Soldiers should not be deployed in dangerous places without the required materials/tools to deal with the situation sufficiently and effectively.
Parliamentary role in shaping CMR
Dr Wilhelm Janse van Rensburg, Parliamentary Research Unit, took the Committee through a presentation that tracked the CRM discussion, with a particular focus on the colloquium key points. These included the need to re-shape CMR after 1994; the new vision for CMR in South Africa (the 1996 White Paper); the growing civil-military gap in South Africa; the impact of the civil-military gap on the SANDF; and the impact of the status of CMR on military effectiveness. He dealt with the question: Where was Parliament after 1996 and what role did it play in monitoring and shaping CMR in South Africa? Responses to this important question were drawn from his study that reviewed Parliamentary oversight of the defence force. Oversight tools were listed as Parliamentary debates, Parliamentary questions, special defence inquiries, oversight visits and study tours, and the use of external audits.
Based on lessons from the study that would have an impact on CMR, Dr van Rensburg said that it was incumbent on Parliament to make decisions on how it could use its structures optimally to ensure enhanced oversight of the defence force.
He concluded that an integrated, comprehensive Parliamentary oversight, with input from external stakeholders, could play a central role in bridging the growing CMR gap.
The Chairperson commented that the idea of the colloquium was to build an archive, an institutional memory. He reminded Members that politicians come and go, but the work of committees would be left for others to continue.
Mr Ian Robertson, Acting Chairperson: Defence Force Service Commission, posed a question to Gen Holomisa. He sought clarity on whether South Africa was not a developed country and what kind of civil oversights he was looking for if he was objecting to a civilian Secretariat. He welcomed, on behalf of the Commission, all the presentations and commented that they were illustrations of the fact that regular engagements were needed. There should be similar engagement with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and engagements with all armed forces. He invited Members to consider recommendations.
Maj Gen Keith Mokoape (Rtd), Chairperson: Reserve Force Council provided an overview of what the reserve force was. He remarked that presenters talked about a small regular force and a big reserve force, but they never quantified what the reserve force should be or look like. When they talked about the reserve force, they talked about the cradle to the grave. Members were reminded that the British system had been inherited. However, in 1994 certain concepts had been rejected because they were promoting apartheid. Some concepts were recognised at the international level. Previously, the preparation of individuals to become soldiers was started at school level. They were trained while in high school, but this culture had disappeared. Upon completion of high school, a young person could choose the military as a future career. Young people were recruited into regular groups, and others were trained for two years to join the reserve force. Within two years, they were taught the life-skills. Some were sent to Tanzania, for example, to learn life skills, including the construction of a two bedroom house on their own. It was a cradle to grave approach, because the reserve force was not being deployed and most of its members were more than 40 years of age.
All military courses were recognised by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), including certificates obtained in other countries. Of concern was that most members of the reserve force were unemployed. Because of the budget constraints, the number of armed forces was getting smaller and smaller. The unemployment was a threat to the defence force. They had been responsible for their unemployment because they were not being equipped with other skills so that they could work in other fields or sectors. The question was, what could be done for those unemployed to live a better life. He suggested that the Department of Defence could help, for example, the Department of Human Settlements to build houses, or members of the reserve force could be offered work by the Department of Basic Education to teach some courses. More problematic was the understanding that the defence force’s work was restricted to dealing with national security. The defence force could do many things to contribute to the developmental agenda. In short, members of reserve force should be employed by other departments, and this should be considered a priority.
Lt Gen Masondo talked about connectivity gap, and commented that it was a historical issue. It could be traced back to the apartheid regime, where black people were not recruited into the army. With regard to the cultural gap, he commented that the defence force was facing a major challenge, as young men and women were not willing or motivated to join the army. A career as a soldier was the last career choice on their mind. He stressed that society could not be militarised and the military could not be civilised.
Regarding the military and media relationship, he remarked that when there were activities, the media were always invited. However, the were unable to write a good story on the military, and newspaper editors did not take these stories into consideration.
Lt Gen Jeremia Nyembe, Chief of Defence Intelligence, supported the remarks made by the Chairperson and other presenters. He said that these platforms for discussion on the defence force should be availed with a view to finding solutions to the challenges in the defence force. He supported the remarks of the Minister that there should be a national discussion. He had listened to the presenters and understood that their criticisms were based on their background. Some critics were realistic. Some discussions were fruitful. The question was, what could be done to move forward? Was it the question of adequate budget? Were presenters providing answers to the challenges faced by the defence force? These discussions should respond to these vital questions.
He said the defence force should be effective in responding to regional and continental conflicts. What was happening in Somalia, the Sudan, Mozambique and Lesotho should be viewed as matters falling within the responsibility of the SANDF. The defence force should effectively intervene in matters such as these. The SANDF should stabilise conflicts at the regional and continental level if South Africa wanted to grow economically. A country performed well economically if it was at peace with itself.
Mr Siphiwe Dlamini, Head of Communications, sought clarity on how the CMR worked during the apartheid era, when the relationship started to be harmonious, how the relationships were determined. Did CMR exist in an autocratic regime or in a democratic regime? Who benefited from the CMR? Why in the post-apartheid era, where everyone was safe, was everyone interested in what the defence force did? Referring to foreign powers that had political influence over how the state behaved or what the state engaged in, he asked whether these foreign stakeholders should be ignored in respect of listening to civil societies. Could the debate of civil society influence the work of the defence force? The developmental agenda specified the role of defence and what to deliver on. He agreed that members of the reserve force could assist the Department of Human Settlements in building houses for the nation.
Vice Admiral Samuel Hlongwane, Chief: South African Navy, commented that many aspects that had been presented were not new. A lot could be found in the defence policy which had not been given a thumbs up by Parliament. There should be an education system in the defence force, and the skills of members of reserve force should be utilised.
Gen Holomisa said that there should be an informal stakeholders’ meeting with the President where these issues could be unpacked for him to structure a way forward. The SANDF should be listened to. Units should be maintained.
Prof Heinecken said that what she had drawn from the discussions was that the military should not be civilianised. The problem was that civil societies did not understand the military culture and the pressure over the military to discharge its mandate. There were many issues that were involved, ranging from racial discrimination to gender discrimination. The future mission of the defence force was to protect, to help and to save human lives. These were the core responsibilities of the defence force, and one should contribute to how these responsibilities could be discharged effectively.
Of concern was that the media was not being held accountable for spreading of false propaganda. The defence force needed to come forward and address those instances in the media that were aimed at tarnishing its name.
The Chairperson said that many points raised by the presenters needed thorough engagements or discussions. The army should be funded in order to discharge its constitutional mandate. However, the question was how the issue of funding should be dealt with. Another item of concern was the connection gap between society and the defence force, which needed to be addressed. Various issues had been raised by the Minister and by other presenters which needed to be looked into. The fact that the Secretariat of defence had been in civil society’s hands had been viewed as a constraint to the functioning of the SANDF. However, Dr Gulube had been doing good work.
Denel was viewed as a liability, but was playing a vital role in the country’s sovereign capability. The Denel challenges had to be addressed, as an effective army was needed. It should be brought into the Parliamentary radar. Other issues raised in this colloquium were insubordination in the army, subordination to the democratic order, inadequate funding, professionalism, military discipline, the declining budget, non-partisanship, the conduct of soldiers, an autocratic army, a democratic army, protection and securing of the border, and retirement planning. There was a need for defence force support of foreign policies. The procurement challenge had been raised and needed a thorough discussion.
On the concern over military court decisions that were set aside by civilian courts, the Chairperson said that these decisions were reviewed within the constitutional framework. Presenters had talked about the issue of energising the Joint Committees on Defence and Intelligence. There ought to be good communication with the defence force. There had also been concern that the defence force might be revealing too much, and sharing information was a matter of concern. It was agreed that there was a culture of withholding certain information, and that this culture ought to be maintained.
The Chairperson observed that not all the key points raised could be highlighted in the closing remarks. He thanked all the speakers and participants for their inputs and comments, particularly the academics who had given Members and the Department’s delegation food for thought.
The meeting was adjourned.
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