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DEFENCE AD HOC COMMITTEE
1 June 2004
Chairperson: Mr M Booi (ANC)
Documents handed out:
The Minister, Mr Mosiuoa Lekota, the Secretary of Defence, Mr J Masilela and the Chief of Defence, General S Nyanda, fielded questions ahead of the budget vote. The Committee focussed on matters of discipline within the Department, and the Department's ability to sustain strategic defence packages and existing military hardware.
The Minister said that due to significant unforeseeable developments in the last ten years, the Defence Force's role had changed. The focus was now on external peacekeeping in troubled areas such as Burundi. This changing role would be reflected in all areas of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
Ms X Makasi (ANC) asked if there would be opportunities for ex-SANDF soldiers to return to the Force. Mr Masilela, Secretary of Defence, said once a soldier had taken a retirement package, there would be no going back. A certain average age and level of fitness had to be maintained.
Moulana M Sayedali-Shah (DA) was concerned that there were insufficient funds for maintaining Strategic Defence Packages (SDPs). The Chief of Defence, General S Nyanda, said new acquisitions posed different challenges. There had been no deterioration of capabilities because these challenges had been anticipated.
Moulana Sayadali-Shah asked if the Department was 'top-heavy'. The Chief of Defence said the title of Brigadier had been changed to Brigadier-General, creating an illusion of top-heaviness that had deceived the media. The title change had lifted morale but there had been no salary change involved.
Advocate H Schmidt (DA) asked if instruction 0702 of the Defence Review, which referred to the reduction of military 'footsteps' in certain restricted areas of South Africa, was a sincere attempt to redesign the Defence Force. Mr Masilela said the Department had taken the issue of land restitution very seriously.
Mr Schmidt asked if the Minister had set a target date for the end of affirmative action within the Department. The Minister said it would be impossible to set such a target.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) was not satisfied with the answer given to the question about SDPs. Training should have taken place before the arrival of the Corvettes. He asked why training for these packages had been listed as a problem area.
Mr Ndlovu asked if the SANDF personnel in Burundi were safe. The Chief of Defence said the safety of deployments was not guaranteed in a war situation, but that measures had been taken to safeguard against most eventualities.
Mr P Groenewald (FFP) asked if the Minister had been satisfied with the level of discipline, and if not, what he would do to improve it. The Chief of Defence replied that there had been no reports from Burundi of 'Iraq type' abuses and that the Department would had not been successful if it was crime-ridden. Reports of corruption had been amplified in the media so that a false perception of the Department had been created
Mr Ndlovu asked if other countries involved in the Burundi peacekeeping process were sharing the costs. The Chief of Defence said that South Africa carried the majority of the costs.
The Minister said it was unavoidable that every progressive country spent part of its budget on maintaining peace. South Africans had to change their isolationist mindset and support the creation of stability in the region.
The meeting was adjourned.
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