Extension of SANDF deployment to combat spread of COVID-19; Border safeguarding and Operation Notlela; Outcome of enquiry into the break-in & theft of assault rifles at Lyttelton Military Base; with Minister


27 August 2020
Chairperson: Mr V Xaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Joint Standing Committee on Defence, 27 August 2020

The Committee was briefed in a virtual meeting by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans on the theft of assault rifles at the Littleton Army base, the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) participation in Operation NOTLELA to combat the spread of Covid-19, and the SANDF’s role in border safeguarding.

The Committee was told that interventions in the fight against Covid-19 included the support of 39 primary healthcare teams comprising 185 members -- 36 doctors, 84 nurses and 65 auxiliary staff – who had been deployed to all nine provinces. A further 180 engineers had been deployed in support of the Department of Water and Sanitation in all the provinces, and military personnel had assisted in enforcing compliance with lockdown regulations with the South African Police Service.

Although the Committee welcomed the recovery of the stolen weapons, it was generally concerned about the theft of military equipment, especially in the light of three recent break-ins at military bases. These break-ins, which were occurring more frequently, weakened the state’s authority and posed doubts as to whether these weapons were adequately looked after. The Committee collectively denounced these break-ins and called for the full force of the law to take its course.

The Committee reiterated its support for extending the jobs of 20 000 SANDF members for the period from 27 June to 30 September at an anticipated cost of R1.5 billion to continue the war against Covid-19. The extension was provided for in section 201(2)(a) of the Constitution. Support from the Committee was founded on the assumption that their work had been largely positive

Referring to Operation Corona -- safeguarding the borders of South Africa -- the Committee called on the Department of Defence to recognise technology as a border force multiplier. While the Committee acknowledged the Department’s limited financial resources, it maintained that the opportunity to diversify would ensure the country’s borders were secure.

The Committee also welcomed the signing of the Border Management Authority Act into law, which would increase the country’s capacity to protect its borders. It urged the SANDF to work proactively with the Authority to develop effective strategies to protect SA’s borders. Members were concerned at the porousness of the borders at a time when there were rumblings of extremists and Jihadists next door in Mozambique. What was SA doing to ensure the safety of the country and its citizens? How was it dealing with air and maritime surveillance, where it was totally exposed?  


Meeting report

The Chairperson said that arising from the workshop held yesterday, the Committee had requested a briefing from the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on the medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) mid-term priorities on the design of the force. This item arose from the discussion held on the force’s structure as it related to its level of 75 000 Members versus the budget. The view was that the current compensation of employees, if not checked, might lead to weaknesses in critical areas. This problem stood on the way of modernising the Defence Force. The Department had cut down on training and flying hours. The Minister was asked to state who was acting in the role of the Chief of the SANDF.

Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence, formally tabled an apology from the Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke. For the past two weeks, he had been out of circulation, and General Rudzani Maphwanya had been appointed personally by herself on 10 August to be the Acting Chief of SANDF. Gen Shoke would hopefully be back next Monday. As they were all aware, they were in the midst of a pandemic that had even affected her and unfortunately, the Chief now was in a similar situation. He had been instructed to stop holding meetings, because the only way to recover more quickly was to be in isolation, to rest and be stress free.

The Chairperson confirmed that Gen Shoke had called him this afternoon to tender an apology for his absence from the meeting. He was receiving medical attention and was in good spirits.

Mr S Marais (DA) agreed that if he was sick, he must be given time to recover. However it had to be noted to he had not appeared before this Committee for the whole of this term, and even in the previous term as well. The Members were unanimous that this was unacceptable, but if Gen Maphwanya was acting in that capacity, then he should be able to answer all the questions that would be put to him. In any event, there had to be a successor who would ensure that the wheels kept turning should anything should happen to the Chief. They knew that the acting Chief was very capable of giving all the information this Committee would need, since he was also a career soldier.

Mr T Mmutle (ANC) suggested that research carried out by academics be considered when dealing with the effects COVID-19 had wrought on society. The pandemic had impacted negatively on all walks of life. Even the study tours envisaged by this Committee had been affected.

Mr M Shelembe (DA) agreed that if Gen Shoke was unwell, he should not be forced to come to the next meeting of the Committee. However, the acting Chief must take complete responsibility, because the work of this Committee must not stop because of his absence.

Mr W Mafanya (EFF) concurred with the last speakers, but wanted the Minister to give guidance because the acting Chief had been nominated to this position for a reason.

Minister’s overview

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the Department had been requested to present on the following topics:

  • The extension of employment by SANDF;
  • The support of the SANDF for the maintenance of law and order;
  • A briefing on border safeguarding; and
  • A briefing on the break-in and theft of assault rifles at the Lyttleton Military base.

She said the President and Commander-in-Chief had authorised SANDF deployment for the period from 25 March to 26 June 2020, with the force level 2 820. This deployment had been effected in accordance with sec 201(2) of the Constitution and sec 81 of the Defence Act, and was comprised of regular auxiliary forces. At this time, the expenditure amounted to R4.5 billion. Third and last deployment was an extension from 26 June to 30 September. With the deployment of only 20 000 members of the SANDF, the incurred expenditure was R1.5 billion. As with the previous deployments, Parliament had been duly notified. 

On the matter of safeguarding the border, the Acting Chief of SANDF would provide the Committee with a comprehensive briefing, highlighting the role of the Defence Force in the operational deployment. 

On the outcomes of the break-in and type of assault rifles stolen at the army base, an immediate investigation had been launched into the incident at the time it occurred in December 2019. This had been jointly investigated by an investigation team led by the military police, supported by the SAPS. She was happy to report that they had recovered the weapons, and several suspects had been arrested. Some were appearing in court as recently as yesterday. Security mechanisms had been tightened and all military personnel had been placed on alert to ensure the rules and procedures for safekeeping of weapons and all other assets SANDF were adhered to. 

Matters Arising

Mr Marais thanked the Minister for the overview. Members knew that the deployment was legitimate and according to the constitution. On the second deployment, he asked how one could deploy 73 000 personnel with an amount of R4.5 billion. It was known that only a very few people out of that figure were actually capable of being deployed, and that only a fraction of them were involved in actually doing any work. There was an over-reliance on the reserve and auxiliary force -- more than the regular trained personnel. What was the rationale at this stage, given the precarious financial situation of the country? 

With regard to the current 20 000, it sounded more realistic. Of these 20 000, there was already an indication of a R3 billion over-expenditure of budget. Another additional R1.6 billion was required for COVED, and yet another R1.5 billion was required for the current deployment until September. This deployment maybe extended, so which would mean an over R6 billion shortfall. How would this be funded? Though it might be required, what was a viability and sustainability of this happening with the current financial situation of the Defence Force? There was a huge reliance on the reserve force for this deployment. Could the Department confirm the involvement of the reserve force of about 20 000 strong? What was the cost involved?

Were the charges against the soldiers arrested for the theft of the weapons going to be withdrawn? There had been further theft of weapons within the last 80 days. What had been done to those who were responsible and in command? To what extent had they been held accountable? Nobody could just drive out of the army base without being searched. This theft had taken place in a vault within an office space. There was no way anyone could go in and out of there over a period of time. Surely there must be a register of weapons held there which were checked from time to time. The Committee was happy the Department was committed to getting to the bottom of this. 

The Chairperson said that the Minister had only given an overview of the situation, and seemed like the previous speaker had breached the rule of anticipation by raising issues that would flow from the presentations yet to be presented.

Mr Mafanya wanted the Minister to provide details on the theft of military weapons at Lyttleton Army base.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said what was important was to inform this Committee that all the stolen arms had been recovered. The people who were in charge at the time the arms were stolen had been charged for negligence. Right now, the case was on, and people had been charged. Yesterday some of them had appeared in court. When sentencing was concluded, a full report would be presented to this Committee.

Mr Mafanya said he understood that the matter was before the courts, but certain issues had to be highlighted without going into the merits of the case. The issue of theft of military weapons at Lyttleton Army base gave the impression that there were rogue elements who were Members of the Defence Force. These individuals posed a threat to the state. The reality was that they weapons they stole were assault rifles, and had they not been recovered speedily, they could have gone into the communities to wreak havoc. The question was, what had been learned from this incident?

Mr Mmutle said that when they undertook an oversight visit to where weapons were stored, it was a highly secured site, but the concerns raised by the military was that communities were coming closer and residing close to that site. What they had learned was that this situation could lead to an unfortunate event, or a criminal activity that could happen in the near future. This could involve community members or criminals taking advantage of the weapons stored close to the community. Was the Minister aware of this situation at the army base and others across the country? What was the military hierarchy doing to ensure that wherever army weapons were stored, that they were safe?

The Chairperson said this was the third time a break-in had happened in a military base within the last three years, and it was very concerning. These repeat attacks undermined the authority of the state, and was an affront to all citizens. The more it happened, the more questions were raised whether the weapons were looked after properly. One could not wait for another occurrence before an inquiry was conducted. The Committee needed to be assured that this incident would not recur. The security had not been breached by outsiders, but rather by those entrusted to secure the weapons. How was the Department dealing with this situation? The first time it had been in Bloemfontein, second time in Simon’s Town, and now in Littleton -- all in a space of three years. Society was outraged with what was happening at the country’s army bases.

Minister’s response

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula responded by first announcing the death of Dr Vejay Ramlakan, Nelson Mandela's personal physician and former surgeon-general of the country's armed forces.

The matter of break-ins and the stealing of firearms had started as early as 1994, and not just in the last three years. As people were integrating, others were looting and stealing firearms that belonged to the state. The question was whether people were subjected to a security clearance, and the answer was that they were. This theft was perpetuated by people who had top secret clearance who, in the course of carrying out their duties, had been recruited by criminal syndicates. These firearms were then used by these criminals to commit crime. This was of course a threat to national security, and SA citizens should be outraged by it. The Department was demanding that the SANDF provide it with a comprehensive list of all missing firearms over a 20 year period -- where they were stolen from, how they were stolen and what they had done to bring those caught to account.

This issue was not new, and did not only happen within the last three years. There could be no justification for a continuation of it, save to say that many persons had forgotten or had put morality on the back burner. They had forgotten about the oath they took, of flying the flag of the country as uniformed members of the armed forces. The Committee could be re-assured that with regard to the present Littleton case, a clear directive was given from the Minister and Chief of the Military Police that commanders must command, account and take responsibility. That was why the Department had not waited for a full investigation to be completed before determining who stole the firearms and that action could be taken. It had been decided that everyone related to the armoury should be charged for recklessness and negligence. From there, it had been narrowed down to those who actually stole the weapons. Members could be assured that when the court cases were over, they would get a full and comprehensive report. There was no way would this case be withdrawn, because they had a very tight case.

The Chairperson acknowledged the response of the Minister, and asked the Committee to accept the her commitment that the Committee would get a comprehensive report when the cases were disposed of by the courts.

SANDF role in fight against Covid-19  

Gen Maphwanya said the aim of the briefing was to update the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on the SANDF participation in Operation NOTLELA for the period 1 June to 20 August.

The force levels were a total of 8 076 members, with 11 battalion headquarters and 36 sub-units -- 24 regular force and 12 reserve force.

Currently, 279 scarce skills volunteers had indicated their interest to provide their services. 35 doctors of the 100 allocated posts and 40 nurses had received appointment letters to date. Appointment letters to 33 support staff had been sent to volunteers, but none of these members had reported for service do date.

SANDF health and humanitarian assistance

The Provincial Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure (PROVJOINTS) coordinates the daily and weekly deployment of SANDF forces, deployed in cooperation with the provincial Department of Health (PDoH), and other humanitarian agencies and role players. Their assistance takes the form of:

  • Decontamination
  • Assistance with food parcel distribution
  • COVID-19 awareness education
  • Scanning points
  • Screening centres
  • Water purification
  • Assistance to other government departments


Scanning teams consist of 165 medical staff members that had been deployed with the SANDF units in all nine provinces. These medical staff members were performing thermal scans on the population during patrols, and at vehicle check points and roadblocks.

Primary Health Care Teams (PHCT)

39 PHCT teams comprising of 185 members -- 36 doctors, 84 nurses and 65 auxiliary staff – had been deployed to all nine provinces to support the NDoH with its mass screening and testing initiative. The teams make use of tented primary health care facilities, which enables them to screen and test those members of the population who would otherwise have had to be transported to such screening and testing venues. These teams were deployed in both urban and rural areas, or to areas where no infrastructures exist.

Water Purification

A total of 180 engineers from the SANDF had been were deployed in teams to all nine provinces in support of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DW&S). The team provides water purification support and distribution to the areas where there was a dire need for drinking water.

The provision of support to areas in need was jointly planned at Provjoints meetings, with input from the Department of Social Development (DSD), among others.

A total of 16 407 000 litres water had been purified, of which 15 058 500 litres had been delivered to the needy over the reporting period.

Enforcement Outcomes

During the reporting period, fines totalling R1.8 million had been imposed, 4 088 arrests had been made, 318 weapons had been seized, and drugs worth R2.9 million and contraband worth R73.4 million had been recovered.


The involvement of the SANDF in the national fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, referred to as Operation NOTLELA, contributed to the wellbeing of many South African citizens. The activities of the SANDF had contributed in both the law enforcement and humanitarian domain. The tasks that were performed, at times unpopular and sometimes unthankful, had definitely contributed to curb the spread of the virus, which had saved lives of many South Africans.

Gen Maphwanya said it was clear that the SANDF had the will and capacity to respond to national disasters at short notice, and when called upon.

The SANDF, however, needed to revisit the resourcing of critical capabilities and enablers to enable a rapid and effective response. The job might not be finished, but the conditions had been good, and one could see the flattening of the curve. The SANDF would always remain vigilant to ensure the continued safety of the nation, to the best of its ability.


The Chairperson said Members did not have a version of the report just presented, and it had more details than the one they had. The good thing was that was it had responded to all the questions the Committee had sent the Department. It focused on how effectively the SANDF had applied the resources released to it.

Mr Marais said he had already asked some questions which had gone unanswered, and which should now be answered. It had been stated by the Department that four field hospitals would be erected, three of which would be on the site of military hospitals and the fourth in Durban. The Committee had been made aware that the seventh floor of a military hospital would be turned into a field hospital facility. Were the field hospitals erected on the grounds of military hospitals as envisaged? What was the cost incurred in doing that? The Defence Force had made South Africa proud on how they had assisted the country during the lockdown under difficult circumstances and with limited resources.

Mr Mafanya said that at a workshop held yesterday, it seemed that fatigue had crept in with the soldiers deployed for lockdown enforcement. Given that 20 000 had been deployed for this phase of the lockdown, was the fatigue for implementing this phase, knowing that defence force was much stretched with implementing the lockdown? What was the quality of service delivered by those who were tired? As 73 000 members had been requested and only 20 000 had been provided, would they be replaced in due course and fresh personnel brought in? Reports reaching the Committee were that some volunteers with critical skills had not shown up. Were there incentives for the would-be volunteers? If not, why not? If they reneged, what could have been their reason for doing so? There were reports of graves dug and mortuaries constructed -- did the soldiers take part in burials, because a lot of contamination happened during the process of burials and transferring bodies from government to private mortuaries?

Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) thanked the SANDF for their excellent service in assisting the SAPS in responding to an incident in his area that directly affected him, related to land invasions. It was a job extremely well done. There was a code of conduct the court required that should be signed by all soldiers deployed -- could this Committee be provided with a copy of that document? This Committee should have an input into the budgetary process. How were the finances looking? How much had been spent on employment currently, compared to the emergency amount appropriated?

Ms M Modise (ANC) said the report just presented had more detailed information. She asked if there had been a need for the intensive care unit (ICU) facilities put up at the Sebokeng and Jubilee hospitals.

Department’s Response

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula responded on the big number of personnel needed for the second lockdown deployment; and said the issue of deployment was not determined by the Minister, but purely on operational matters, which was also intelligence led. This number was decided and agreed upon at the military command council, based on its own assessment. At that time, deaths were occurring not only here in SA, but globally as well, and everything was still new. There was anxiety, seeing what was happening in Europe at the time. It was decided that when the chips were down, the last people standing should be SANDF personnel. They would even have to assist in the mortuaries, because at the time the mortuaries were becoming overwhelmed. The Department saw the role of SANDF as not only assisting the SAPS to enforce compliance, but being deployed according to the district model to hospitals and clinics. It had always seen their duties not only narrowly focussed on the soldiers alone, but on assisting the hospitals to cope in times of emergency, such as this pandemic. It saw the SANDF playing a role in direct service delivery issues, such as ferrying tanks of water to communities that needed them, and in water reticulation systems.

Through this medium, they should actually send a word of appreciation to the soldiers, reserve and auxiliary forces, for their steadfastness during this trying and testing time. One should not forget that they also ensured that all the border lines of SA were completely sealed.

The deployment of field hospitals had truly exposed the weaknesses of SA in different ways, one of which was the ability to plan the pace of implementation of set plans. The Department had very good plans, but the resources to implement them were very limited. This was a good experience for the SANDF and the country as whole. They were all talking of arresting the capability of the defence force, and this pandemic had proved that the country had limited capabilities. When they realised that they were hit hard by budgetary constraints, they had decided to get into a partnership with the Cubans. Why them? This was because they had suffered a long period of sanctions and arms embargoes, and had seen how they had turned old ‘60s vehicles into new ones. It was decided that South Africa should get mechanics and engineers from them, and to effect a skills transfer. They had repaired a large number of the Department’s vehicles, and she urged Members to visit the facilities where this work was being done. The media had been taken there and had been in awe at how they had revived these discarded vehicles into something new. All these skills had been transferred to the Department’s people.

Regarding the need to have the field hospital in Sebokeng, when this entire pandemic had passed they must be able to point at what Covid-19 had delivered. They believed that the orders for ICU beds and ventilators would equip and capacitate their hospitals better.

She said the code of conduct was something every defence force member was supposed to know by heart. Even when they had a parade, the first thing they did after prayers was to recite the code of conduct of the SANDF. The issue was not that they forgot their code of conduct, because that was far from the truth. However, the code of conduct would be forwarded to the Members, as requested.

The military command had tried as much as possible to avoid any scandal in awarding procurement contracts for PPE. They had the internal audit unit monitoring and identifying whatever risks were at hand, and drawing attention of the Defence Force command to mitigate them. The SANDF had tried as much as possible to adhere to the regulations which were issued by National Treasury. The Department had found it necessary to identify an area in any province that really lacked hospital facilities, so one hospital could be built as a legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Such an area was found in Limpopo province in a small village, where the nearest hospital was about 140 km away. If they could use the small amount received for this project to construct a hospital here, this would make the Department really happy.

Gen Maphwanya added that every operation conducted by SANDF was preceded by a scientific military appreciation process. Before the number of 73 000 was determined, all issues had been taken into consideration before arriving at that number because when planning for battle, casualties were also taken into consideration. Covid-19 was an enemy being faced for the first time and preparing for this enemy --invisible as it was – the force had to be committed to supporting our people to the last.

On fatigue, resilience was what had been emphasised on deployment. The SANDF had put structures in place to deal with fatigue. Like every military operation, it was planned on a ratio of one to three.

Ms Sonto Kudjoe, Secretary for Defence, said that in addition to what the Minister had spoken about the legacy project, in about a month’s time the seventh floor of the military hospital upgrade would be ready, with 78 ICU beds. Part of it would be utilised for Covid patients, taking into account Covid protocols such as social distancing. A stable energy supply would also be ensured, and a small hospital had been erected too, using hydrogen fuel, with some ICU beds too. This had been done in conjunction with the Department of Science and Innovation. When successful, it was envisaged that their hospitals would be powered by hydrogen fuel.

Regarding the budget, the quarterly report had been submitted as part of the requirements of this Committee, and the details would be dissected in detail when the quarterly report was presented.

The Chairperson said that the issues raised had been covered by the Department.

SANDF involvement in border safeguarding

Gen Maphwanya said another aim of this meeting was to brief the Committee regarding the SANDF’s border safeguarding in all domains. The SANDF was deployed along the borders of South Africa on border safeguarding duties code named Operation CORONA. Land border safeguarding required a permanent presence within a ten kilometre radius of the actual border line. Maritime and air border safeguarding was conducted by periodic intelligence-driven patrols/deployments within the allocated medium term force employment (MTFE) guidelines.

Operation Corona land operations

The prime function of landward border safeguarding was to deter illegal practices, like cross-border trade and the movement of people, animals and goods across the borders. This deterrence was intended to force people to utilise the official border posts, thereby keeping a record of movements and control of traffic. Should deterrence be unsuccessful, deployed units were to detect, intercept, apprehend and detain intruders in the different border safeguarding mission areas. The concept of operations was thus focused on limiting and/or controlling undocumented migrants in accordance with national policies, and curbing organised crime.

The SANDF’s contribution was the effective apprehension and handing over of undocumented persons to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) or the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the confiscation of narcotics, contraband goods, livestock and stolen vehicles.

Recommendations for improvement

  • Upgrade the road and fence infrastructure within the border area (10km strip).
  • Upgrade the base infrastructure to support permanent operations. Poor living conditions for troops translated into poor discipline and morale.
  • Improve the urgency of the “E-procurement” system so that the maintenance of vehicles and base infrastructure could be done when needed.
  • Improve aerial surveillance of the borderline to determine activity hotspots that may be a distance from bases, and be mobile to react to requirements.

Operation Corona air operations

The South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) prime function was to conduct air operations to assist the SANDF in protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. These operations were conducted by means of the SAAF’s surveillance, control and air defence (SCAD) system that provides the system capabilities required for airspace security as applicable in times of peace, through to obtaining air superiority and joint air defence (JAD) during major combat operations (MCOs). During MCOs, airspace security as applicable in times of peace, converted into JAD, the nature of which was described in detail in Joint Air Defence Operations.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • The SAAF should receive a fixed operating budget amount dependant on the required borderline aerial patrol hours.
  • Improved air surveillance and radar coverage of land and maritime borders, especially for low flying small aircraft crossing the border.
  • Better security presence at small airstrips/fields close to the border area to intercept human/contraband smugglers.


Gen Maphwanya said the SANDF was involved in many operations that secured South Africa’s land, sea and air borders and that lend assistance to other government departments in the execution of their respective mandates

Though restrained by budget cuts, slow procurement and maintenance processes, the SANDF still remained a critical role player in the defence and security of the country

The only way to secure the SANDF’s capability to fulfil its mandate was to capacitate and train effectively, with a dynamic logistic support system that would effectively support high tempo operations


Mr Marais said this had been a very important presentation, and asked for a specific day to be dedicated for interrogating it. They were all aware of what was happening in Mozambique, and that also related to the border with Zimbabwe in Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park side, also on the KZN border. Hopefully one could get to a point of acknowledging the specific threat and additional movements being seen along these borders. The General had been talking about 22 companies, but currently 15 companies were deployed there. He had not referred to the use of cyber technology like drones and other mechanisms such as satellites as a force multiplier. With these, they could use their soldiers only as a reaction force, so that one could have a 24 hour surveillance of the borders. It was reported that these people were clever -- they knew when the patrols were taking place and then slipped through another way. As a result, all these loopholes had to be closed.

What was happening at these borders? What was happening at the strategic De Aar ammunition depot? What was South Africa doing to ensure the safety of the country and its citizens? On air and maritime surveillance, it was totally exposed in these areas. They had to do something, and not wait for the war to knock on the country’s doorsteps. This had to be taken forward -- not just wait and do nothing.

Ms A Beukes (ANC) asked who was in charge of identifying the camps in the Northern Cape? Could they use the camps to cover the gaps? What processes were in place to monitor the places and gaps where alcohol had been confiscated during the lockdown? Was there a programme in place to recognise what the SANDF was doing for the country in this “new normal?” What was the Department doing to boost the morale of the defence force? The Committee looked forward to the establishment of the legacy project.

Mr Ryder also echoed the sentiments of the previous speaker, saying that this matter was too serious to be brushed over. There were a large number of undocumented immigrants slipping through the borders because of the porous borders. The safeguarding of the country’s fishing rights and resources were very important, and there was also the economic impact of massive numbers of undocumented migrants, as municipal budgets were under strain because they were providing services to people not budgeted for. There was an increasing issue of cross-border crime. The border with Lesotho seemed to be completely open too, and no control over the cross-border crime happening there. What was the role of the defence force with regard to that? Did the force have the right to cross the border in pursuit of people involved in crime in SA? Was there a cross-border law enforcement arrangement? If someone went across the border, did SA forces have the right to arrest them across the border in terms of international agreements?

Mr Mmutle wanted the Department to take the Committee through the R285 million for earmarked for technological projects. How far had that project gone? They were moving in the era of technology and could not continue to rely on the movement of 22 company foot soldiers to secure the borders.

Department’s response

Minister Mapiso-Nqakula agreed that this presentation on border control and security should be revisited. One thing to be appreciative of was the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA). This body had been discussed for a lot time and it had finally been established. This body would now develop protocols and standard operation protocols.

The issue of extremism and terrorism in the Mozambique region was receiving urgent attention. The Committee could rest assured that the Commander in Chief was giving all the assistance the Department needed to function. There was regular interaction between him and the military command, and he got information directly from them. South Africa could rely on technology as a force multiplier, and it had radar and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on its internal borders, but on a limited scale.

The matter of undocumented migrants was a critical matter, and the cross-border situation between Free State and Lesotho were all valid points. Only yesterday, the Department had interacted with a delegation from Lesotho. Issues of cross-border crime, such as stock theft and drugs, had been discussed. It was agreed that one of the proposals to be put forth was launching joint border patrols and joint exercises between the two defence forces. Both countries had begun to realise that cross-border crime was becoming a challenge. The defence force had no right to pursue criminals into another country.

The matter of roads in Northern Cape rural towns was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

The matter of undocumented migrants was being dealt with at an inter-ministerial committee level.

As a parting shot, she said the Department welcomed constructive criticism and was grateful to the SANDF, volunteers and auxiliary forces for their dedication to this country.

Ms Kudjo offered the Department’s appreciation to the Committee for their understanding in making provision and resources available to the Department whenever needed. The management of the borders should be taken seriously, and the Department stood ready to engage further with the Committee. The role of the defence force was also changing, as they were also participating in the economy, such as in the Oceans Economy. The borders were now the land, air and sea. There was also the problem of illicit and sub-standard goods coming across the borders to the country. There were also issues of unknown airstrips spreading across the country, with about 1 400 situated on farms.

Way forward

The Chairperson said the discussion on border control would be incomplete until the Committee visited the borders to see for itself, especially the problematic areas. With the country on level two, it was necessary to make those plans with the logistics provided by the Department, so as to cover a huge amount of ground. It was reassuring that the developments in Mozambique were now receiving the attention of one the security cluster committees. There they could interact on details, because they were qualified to enter into areas that this Committee could not. However, this Committee would still have a closed meeting in which the Department could take them into their confidence.

The SANDF, volunteers and auxiliary forces were commended for taking the country into level two of the lockdown. The country had now passed the peak of the pandemic, and had disrupted the infection chain. The Committee would consider buying a space in a national newspaper to thank the SANDF for their diligent services to the country.

Gen Maphwanya thanked the Committee for the support they had provided to the SANDF, and hoped this support would reach the point where the defence force would be capacitated, even though it knew the country’s finances were not so good.

Minister’s closing remarks

Minister Mapiso-Nqakula said she liked what the Chairperson had said about force levels and design. The Committee was well aware of the Defence Review of 2015, and Department hoped it did not embark on another defence review exercise, because it was very expensive. Of course, the country had fiscal challenges and the economy was under-performing, but unfortunately SA’s role in the region and continent was such that it could not run away from its responsibilities. Any time the country reduced the SANDF budget, it was because there was a need to address the socio-economic imbalances of the past. Regrettably, this reduction had continued, yet the demand on SA had increased.

It had never occurred to anyone that SA would be playing the role it was playing now, when it was coming from a situation where it was banned in the world. Whatever the then government of that day had, was limited for them to carry out operations in the country and directed only to the people of SA. Now there was an expectation from this country all the time, especially when there were peace keeping requirements and crises. With all the poverty in the continent, countries around SA were spending more, and their capabilities were becoming more advanced than SA’s. If SA was to be a key player by way of influencing the direction and course of the continent, and ensuring that there was peace so as to unlock prosperity, it had to invest in its defence force. The defence force supported the foreign policy of the country. One of the things to do now was to look at the defence force’s obsolete assets which it did not require anymore, and capitalise on them. They had tracts of land, and they should be leasing them to generate their own money. A lot of work had been done by auditing the assets of the defence force, and if the right steps were taken, SANDF could sustain itself to a large extent.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the Members for attending this important meeting. The Minister had closed the meeting on the right note.

The meeting was adjourned.


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