Defence Review: Department briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

17 August 2004
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Meeting report


17 August 2004

Chairperson: Professor K Asmal (ANC)

Documents handed out:
White Paper on Defence, 1996 & Defence Review, 1998
Proposed Architectural Design for Updated White Paper on Defence

The Department presentation included an historical overview and architectural logic of the 1996 Defence White Paper and the 1998 Defence Review. The Defence Review focused on management, defence posture and strategies and it sought to develop a credible rationale for investment in the strategic defence package. During the discussion, Members sought clarity on the mismatch of the force design and force structure, as well as the status of the current Defence Review documents

The Department briefed the Committee on the current rate of HIV/AIDS and other health considerations within the SANDF. Members then questioned whether the Department had HIV-positive members in active deployment; why 30% of the SANDF was not deployable; how staff were being replaced, and whether testing for HIV was mandatory for new recruits.

Professor Asmal announced that when re-established, the Joint Committee on Defence would meet on Fridays. This Committee would meet two or three times weekly, and there might also be some full-day workshops. The budget for the medium-term expenditure programme 2005/2006 should relate to the Business Plan, the SANDF programme, the President's Speech and the Minister of Finance's Budget. The Department's annual report had become the means of measurement against three-monthly reports. Functions should be carried out in a systematic way. Members training would start next week. The Committee would also meet periodically with the Security Committee.

1998 Defence Review
In his introductory remarks, the Chairperson noted that world politics has changed radically since 1998 when the Defence Review was first undertaken. The deployment of SANDF forces had undergone a review, and they were now relatively extensively deployed in peacekeeping operations in Africa. The Department held the view that South Africa did not face an external military threat, but the Committee could interrogate that view. There had been a significant increase in the illegitimate use of force by both State and non-State actors since 1998. This had huge implications for Africa and the broader South. Repudiation of international law and rules by unilateral actions had become very pronounced. A rational position on human security was needed for South African society.

Department briefing
Mr Nick Sendall, Chief Director: Defence Policy, was accompanied by his Department colleagues; Ms S Rabkin of the Minister's Office; Ms Ramphele, Armscor Company Secretary; Mr Visser, Strategic Manager; General S. Mollo, Strategic Planning; Brigadier-General Olofse; Ms Magaba and Messrs Naidoo, Rakati and Bam.

Mr Sendall presented a historical overview of the 1996 Defence White Paper and 1998 Defence Review before discussing the architecture logic for the new White Paper and Defence Review. The White Paper sought to establish government policies in terms of international context. The White Paper had been drafted by Laurie Nathan, and approved by Parliament in May 1996. Its focus was to move democratic South Africa away from the aggressive "total response to total onslaught" mentality of the apartheid era. The Defence Review focused on management, defence postures and strategies. There was a clear intention of civilian control over the military. Both documents remained robust and had in many ways 'stood the test of time'. The Defence Review sought to develop a credible rationale for investment in the strategic defence package. Option 1 was selected for a Force Structure, subject to further study and financial planning.

Since that time, the environment had changed in Africa with the African Union and NEPAD. A new security orientation was developing within SADC with a common African defence policy. South Africa would take over the Chair of the SADC Security Organ next year.

The new White Paper and Defence Review should set a vision for the next ten years. Two reports were envisioned: the policy statements in the White Paper, and the management process to give effect to policy. Various concepts papers should be produced, for example on peacekeeping and human resources, to align with policy papers. The architectural logic was as follows:

White Paper
Chapter One: Context
Chapter Two: Strategic Environment
Chapter Three: Continental and Regional Security
Chapter Four: Government Approach to Security
Chapter Five: Defence Diplomacy
Chapter Six: Roles and Function of the SANDF

Management Processes
Chapter Seven: Force Design and Force Structure
Chapter Eight: Defence Management
Chapter Nine: Human Resources
Chapter Ten: Reserves and Veterans
Chapter Eleven: Defence Material
Chapter Twelve: Future Defence Requirements and Capabilities.

Professor K Asmal (ANC) requested that the Department not use the terms "failed state" and "failing state". These were 'Northern' terms and should not be repeated, given the Somali and similar experiences. Terrorism might be more portent than foreign military threats.

Mr M Booi (ANC) wondered whether it was useful to use such global analysis, in the context of the 9 September 2001 attacks, and vocabulary like terrorism.

Mr Sendall responded that the terminology was not 'cast in stone', but just reflected recent thinking that new threats had arisen since the end of the Cold War.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) asked for more clarity on the mismatch of the force design and force structure, as well as demobilisation.

Mr Sendall responded that the report had been rescheduled for release in October. There was no clear definition of veterans. Part-time reservists made up the bulk of the South African forces. As regards the size and shape of the SANDF, peacekeeping had become more important than had been expected in 1996.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) said Parliament would still decide whether the Review would be tackled by this Portfolio Committee or by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. What would then be the status of the current documents?

Mr Sendall responded that the reference to a mismatch in force design referred to what the country could afford and pertinent discussions would be held on September 8 with the Minister of Finance on the expenditure framework. There would be some interchange of chapters between the new and old reviews, but the existing documents would be a point of departure. They planned to add to and strengthen the new documents, rather than throw out the old ones.

Mr C Burgess (ID) asked whether these concept papers already existed. Was it the core business of the Defence Force to be writing these?

Mr Sendall responded that the concept papers would be produced internally by the Department without external consultants.

The Chairperson commented that they needed to be much clearer on what they wanted to achieve. He did not think it was feasible to have 28 or 29 concept papers as there were not adequate resources. The Department would be likely embarking on an exercise lasting four to five years. The Defence Review should be completed by October and be followed by public hearings. They might instead produce a document of 25 to 30 pages on 'Defence in the 21st century' that also covered the roles of both the Joint Standing Committee and this Portfolio Committee. The politics of it should amount to one page, and the management to 25 pages. They had their own researcher, Dr Rocky Williams. This was not an adversarial process, but a fait accompli would not be accepted. With regards to military justice, he asked why so many cases still went to court.

Health considerations in SANDF
General Olofse spoke on HIV/AIDS and other health considerations within the SANDF. He reported that each staffmember was categorised with either a G or a K classification, which was also colour coded as green, yellow or red. Individuals coded red could not be deployed. Health checks were conducted annually. Only G1 and K1 members could be deployed. Of the 56 947 members in uniform, 40 000 or 70% had been classified as G1 and K1. Thus, 30% of the uniformed forces could not be deployed externally because of medical reasons. The Department employed 75 000 members, of whom 56 947 were in uniform. These were comprised of 65% Army (48.2% green); 15% Air Force (44% green); 8% Navy (61% green); 11% Medical Corps (43% green).

Of 1 643 members coded yellow, 7.8% had tested HIV-positive and 1.6% had Hepatis B. New HIV infectious represented 1.2%. Mortality statistics were 580 deaths during 2002 and 857 during 2003. Causes of death included pulmonary infections at 48.5%, followed by cardiovascular problems at 3.6%.

During Operation Blue Crane in April 1999, the HIV incidence was 17%. It was currently 23%, which was roughly in line with the Ministry of Health's national figure of 22-24%. The recent Project Phidisa clinical trial should be placed in perspective, and statistics should not be quoted out of context. In this trial, 1 089 patients had volunteered and 947 (87%) tested HIV-positive.

Ms C Johnson (NNP) asked whether the Department had enough resources to deal with these problems.

General Oelofse replied that donor funding (including American government 'PEPFAR' funding) studies had not yet been done.

Ms Johnson asked whether HIV-positive members would be deployed for active combat.

General Olofse responded that if the soldiers' CD4 counts were above 200, they usually felt reasonably healthy. However, increased stress levels and poor diet in combat zones could rapidly reduce this CD4 count, and thereby hasten the progression from being HIV-positive to sufferering from AIDS-related diseases. Such people were then classified into the K2 category, and could continue normal internal deployments.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) felt that the notion that an HIV-positive person could not be deployed was problematic as South Africa had a voluntary SANDF.

General Mollo replied that the United Nations had established minimal health standards for international operations. The inherent requirements of the SANDF meant that any person in uniform would be tested.

Mr D Diale (ANC) said that as 30% of the SANDF was not deployable, how were staff being replaced. General Oelofse replied that they would need to be replaced by new recruits

Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked whether HIV-testing was mandatory for new recruits. General Oelofse responded that pre-employment tests included those for HIV and Hepatitis. They would exclude HIV-positive recruits.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on HIV prevalence. General Oelofse responded that a prevalence study had not been done, but testing indicated that new infections were currently at 1.2%.

The Chairperson announced that next week they would deal with 'Peacekeeping in the 21st century'.

The meeting was adjourned.


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