The Joint standing Committee on Defence met to be briefed on the National Conventional Arms Control Committee’s (NCACC’s) third quarterly report for 2020/21, as well as to consider the letter from the President of 3 February concerning the deployment of South African National Defence Force Force (SANDF) personnel to support operations of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The President’s letter specified that 2 122 members of the SANDF were employed “to support other government departments to preserve life, health or property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations and in cooperation with the SAPS in the prevention of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order” in the country until the end of February. It was an extension of the original mandate from December 29 to January 31. The SANDF personnel would be deployed to “hotspot” provinces -- Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Members said that the purpose of the deployment, codenamed “Operation Ligcolo,” seemed to mirror that of “Operation Netlela,” if one compared the President’s authorisation letters, and sought clarity on the differences. When the SANDF and the SAPS worked in cooperation with each other, which was the lead department? An explanation was also sought for the substantial decrease in the budget estimate for the February deployment, compared to January.
Chairperson Xaba welcomed the Joint Standing Committee Members to the virtual meeting. Apologies were tabled and the agenda for the meeting was explained. The Chairperson said that the first item on the agenda was in regard to the letter from the President which had been read to Parliament.
The letter titled: “Extension of Employment of Members of the South African National Defence Force in Cooperation with the South African Police Service,” read as follows:
“This serves to inform the National Assembly that I have extended the employment of 2 122 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in cooperation with the South African Police Service (SAPS) from 1 to 28 February 2021.
The 2 122 members of the SANDF were employed to support other government departments to preserve life, health or property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations and in cooperation with the SAPS in the prevention of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order in the Republic of South Africa under adjusted level 3 regulations.
The extension of employment of members of the SANDF was authorised in accordance with the provisions of Section 201(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and Section 18(1)(a) and Section 19 of the Defence Act, Act 42 of 2002.
The expenditure to be incurred for this of employment will not exceed the amount of R64 767 486.
I will communicate this report to Members of the National Council of Provinces and wish to request that you bring the contents hereof to the attention of the National Assembly.
Mr Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa
President of the Republic of South Africa”
Information Brief on SANDF Operation LIGCOLO
Lt Gen Rudzani Maphwanya, Chief of Joint Operations, SANDF, said that the initial President’s Minute no 257/2020 mandated the SANDF to deploy no more than 2 122 personnel from 29 December 2020 to 31 January 2021. The President’s Minute no 21/2021, dated 4 February 2021, had subsequently approved the extension of the mandate to deploy no more than 2 122 members from 1 to 28 February 2021.
Both the President’s minutes mandated the SANDF deployment for service in order to preserve life, health or property in emergency or humanitarian relief operations in support of other Government Departments, and to cooperate with the SAPS in the prevention of crime and maintenance and preservation of law and order, with specific reference to declared hotspot areas, where the SANDF would be restricted to the protection of roadblocks and vehicle control points, as well as patrols to enforce the national curfew.
The law enforcement deployments were to the following hotspot provinces:
An air component was also deployed as part of that operation. The platforms were utilized in both the humanitarian and law enforcement domains. To date, the air platforms were used to assist with food distribution in the Limpopo Province, as well as the Northern Cape.
Two heavy-duty recovery teams were deployed to the Beitbridge port of entry (POE). The Joint Tactical Head Quarters used the recovery capability to clear the congestion of the roads leading to the POE, thereby saving lives. The 912 members making up the mandated total of 2 122, were all on 25-hour standby to be deployed to any eventuality should it be required. At no stage of the deployment did the SANDF exceed the deployment mandate of 2 122 members.
Mr S Marais (DA) thanked the General for the presentation. Firstly, he wanted to know how the purpose of Operation LIGCOLO differed to that of Operation NOTLELA. When comparing the authorisation letters from the President, it seemed that they both had the same purpose.
When reading the President’s latest letter, similar to the previous one, it stated that the aim was to assist government departments, in cooperation with the SAPS, with authorisation coming from the Constitution and the Defence Act. From his understanding, whenever the Defence Force operated in support or in cooperation with SAPS, they were always under the command of the SAPS. Clarity was sought as to the position of the Defence Force, and whether they were the lead department in the current case.
Regarding the ports of entry (POE), he asked whether it would just be additional staff members at the ports to assist in Home Affairs and customs matters, or whether it had to do with additional land border units being deployed.
He thanked the General for the presentation having given a breakdown on the finance for the first time. What was the reasoning behind the difference in budget costs for January (R95.7 million) and February (R64.8 million) and its substantial decrease? He sought clarity on where the finance would be coming from. Had anyone briefed the Commander-in-Chief that what needed to be done was that every time a deployment occurred, additionally funding should be given by National Treasury, as the Defence budget could not stand the deployments occurring on its current budget?
Mr W Mafanya (EFF) asked whether the Joint Tactical Headquarters included the SAPS, Home Affairs and Defence Force. If so, regarding the concerns over places such as Ficksburg, where people had died due to congestion which had been addressed at some point, he sought their own assessment as to who they attributed those deaths and injuries to. What the additional input had come from their counter parts in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique? What responsibility had been shared in which they had lost people in the process?
Lt Gen Maphwanya responded that while operation LIGCOLO and NOTLELA may have seemed the same as far as responsibilities were concerned, they differed in their intensity. Operation NOTLELA, which was now concluded and debriefed, had been meant for a wide variety of tasks, which were also inclusive of some of the tasks found in Operation LIGCOLO.
The idea of registering another operation was based on the fact that the authority for Operation NOTLELA had expired, and as such could not be resuscitated. They had been forced to start with the appreciation of the current requirements in terms of issues which would be required during the adjusted level 3 lockdown, which excluded some of the tasks found in Operation NOTLELA. When certain elements of a mission changed, the entire mission needed to be reregistered for auditing purposes, where all governance aspects were looked at.
Whatever they did in the law enforcement element, they had done in cooperation with SAPS, as the SANDF could not do any form of police work or arrest without the cooperation of the police. All operations in terms of law enforcement aspects had been done and conducted in line with the planning which took place at the provincial Joint Operations Committees (JOCs). The SANDF were not the leading agents in regard to that.
Regarding the ports of entry, those were not the same elements which had been under the responsibility of Operation Corona, which had been deployed for border safety, but were rather over and above those elements, which had occurred as requests forwarded by both the Department of Health and Department of Home Affairs, with the aim of providing support at the various ports of entries.
The difference in the January and February budget estimates occurred as a result of various factors. However, they needed to get all the issues audited before they could vouch for the total cost. The content of the letter indicated that they should not exceed the estimated budget, which implied that they could use less than the total allocated. However, when determining the budget, they had looked at the worst-case scenario as they believed that their approach needed to take the worst-case scenario into account. Their budgeting and planning was based on empirical evidence which they had collected in terms of what would be required during the operation.
Their operations were based on the understanding that the planning was decentralised to the provincial JOCs, so that the provincial JOCs represented and were inclusive of all the entities, as well as the elements of those entities.
There were no people who had died within the ports of entry. The one reported case of a death had occurred outside that domain. He cautioned Members and the public against blindly believing what the media portrayed or reported on, especially when painting a negative image. There was only one person who had died, but not as a result of neglect or dehydration, because the ports of entry had water facilities available.
National Conventional Arms Control Committee quarterly report
Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, explained that the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) report was meant to be presented by the Chairperson of the NCACC, and was not something that fell under her mandate. It was suggested that the Scrutiny Committee be informed to come and present the report.
Chairperson Xaba responded that they had enquired into the matter of the Third Quarterly Report, and Adv Nokukhanya Jele, legal advisor to President Ramaphosa, had informed the Chairperson on 4 February that the report had been served before the NCACC, been approved and signed off by the late Minister Jackson Mthembu, and all that was needed was for the report to be tabled. The report had not been tabled, and the Chairperson went on to explain how he had informed Adv Jele that the responsibility lay with him, and that he was not to make his problem the Chairperson’s problem. All that was needed was for Adv Jele to inform the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission and state that the report was ready to be sent to Parliament in order for the report to be considered -- something which he had not done as yet. The Chairperson believed that Adv Jele had really let them down in that regard.
The Minister said that she shared the same sentiments as that of the Chairperson and would look further into the matter. The Chairperson was correct in expecting Adv Jele to present the report, as she was the individual responsible for that. She would personally check as to why the report was not present and had not been tabled.
Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) stated that while they were all saddened by the passing of Minister Jackson Mthembu, who was a great person and respects should be paid, the work needed to continue. One of the other Ministers, as Vice-Chairperson, should have stepped up and taken responsibility. He emphasised that the Joint Standing Committee on Defence should have received the presentation as expected.
Mr Marais echoed the sentiments of Mr Ryder. The third quarter had passed a long time ago, and it was unacceptable that the approved report had not been tabled yet when the fourth quarter had already concluded. The Committee could not be expected to do its oversight work when the information they required was not being given to them.
Ms N Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) thanked the Minister for indicating and echoing the Committee’s views regarding Adv Jele not being present at the meeting, nor sending a replacement to present the report to the Committee. It felt as if the Joint Standing Committee on Defence was not being taken seriously and Adv Jele should have been present at the meeting or, at the very least, sent an explanation as to why he would not be present, along with a replacement in order to table the report and present it to the Committee. Ultimately, Adv Jele was hindering the progress and work the Committee needed to do, and that was a serious concern. The Minister was once again thanked for taking the concerns raised by the Committee seriously.
The Minister said that she wished to apologise on behalf of Mr Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, for not being present at the meeting. She clarified that she was apologising despite not knowing why he was not present at the meeting. She would convey the message to Minister Lamola who, along with any one of the Ministers in the Committee, could come and present the report.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her support and attendance.
Committee minutes dated 4 February 2021
Mr Marais indicated that he had not received the legal opinion as yet.
The Chairperson responded that it would be resent to Mr Marais.
Ms A Beukes (ANC) moved to adopt the minutes, and Ms Nkosi seconded.
The minutes were adopted
The meeting was adjourned.
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