Defence Review: hearings

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Defence and Military Veterans

26 October 2004
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

26 October 2004

Professor K Asmal (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Institute for Global Dialogue (IGD) submission (2 drafts)
Africa Institute of South Africa submission
AMD (South African Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association) submission
Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) submission
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) submission
Advisory Board on Military Veterans Affairs submission
South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) submission
Ceasefire Campaign submission
CSIR submission
CSIR presentation
South African Catholic Bishops Conference
Mbeki's Peace and Security Agenda and South African National Defence Force (SANDF)

The Committee held public hearings on the Second Defence Review. Most presenters felt that the role of Defence for the next ten to fifteen years depended on 'threat analysis'. Foreseeing no imminent threat to South Africa, the presenters recommended that the Defence Review prioritise human security issues like poverty, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. The submissions variously reported flaws in the military justice system, inefficiencies within the Department of Defence and exceedingly high HIV infection rates in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Committee Members argued that downsizing the SANDF was incompatible with South Africa's growing leadership commitments in Africa. The Chairperson concluded that the Committee had to clarify specific issues before continuing its Defence Review. These were the Service Corps, Veteran Affairs and associated maters; the military Ombudsperson; Civic Education; and the processes of non-collective bargaining.


The Committee received ten submissions. Due to time constraints they were each restricted to ten or fifteen minutes' duration.

The Chairperson started proceedings with a brief overview of Defence since 1994. The White Paper (1995), commissioned in 1994 by the Joint Standing Parliamentary Committee on Defence, and assessed the defence needs of a new, democratic South Africa. The scope of the Paper accounted for the international political context of the time but did not anticipate future changes. Defence Review workshops were held throughout 1996 and 1997 to address the volatile global political climate. The Defence Review 1998 was informed to a large extent by expert advice and public opinion. Since 1998, shifting global and regional trends have necessitated another Defence Review with public viewpoints and the advice of stakeholders.

A summary round of discussion was chaired by Professor R Williams, which sought to clarify previous discussion points with presenters. This raised debate about dissimilar threat analyses; downsizing versus rightsizing of the SANDF; Service Corps considerations; readiness of the SANDF; and inefficiencies within the Department.

Institute for Global Dialogue submission
Dr G Shelton briefed the Committee. He said a foundation for the Defence White Paper should be 'threat analysis'. This item was omitted from the previous Paper. There was no conventional threat to South Africa in the immediate future. Therefore the country's defence policy should focus on collateral issues such as democratising the defence function; regional co-operation and fulfilment of treaty obligations (SADC, AU); increased participation in collective security; fighting domestic crime; border protection; humanitarian relief activities; and regional conflict prevention. South Africa's potential peacekeeping function in Africa required more than the current 3000 troops. Mr Shelton advised that the average age of South African troops was too high by world standards; the diminishing rate of intake of new recruits needed attention; and the role of veterans in the defence system and the reserves had to be justified.

Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) was concerned that in the absence of a substantial regional or collective security force design, South Africa would be under-equipped to respond to a sudden threat from one of its neighbours with larger force designs.

Mr Shelton responded that in the short term there was sufficient Defence capacity to deal with unexpected hostilities. Expecting no immediate threat, South Africa should follow the example of other developing countries, several in Asia, that were using the relatively quiet future to allocate resources to the economy and to improving living standards. Ten years on, resources could be injected into Defence if there were new perceived threats to the nation. As a developing nation South Africa must not be embarrassed to use her military to police crime.

Mr H Schmidt (DA) was interested in what broader definition Mr Shelton advised for the term 'security.'
Mr Shelton replied that there were numerous definitions in use. He looked at a ten to fifteen year horizon encompassing human security elements like food and water. As a role player in Africa, South Africa ought to provide for human security challenges, like dispensing emergency food aid to remote regions.

Mr D Dlali (ANC) wanted elaboration on ill discipline, poor communication and premature personnel promotions in the army that were reported in the document. Also, what regional threats were there to South Africa and what could our Defence force do to reduce regional conflicts?

Mr Shelton referred to the media coverage of inefficiencies in the army. The Department had to acknowledge these and think up a solution. Regional threats were difficult to list off hand because they are the subject of continuous and extensive study. Regional conflict prevention could be instituted through the AU and the SADC. Japan had offered its support of a major African peacekeeping unit. Perhaps South Africa could head the creation of one.

Africa Institute of South Africa submission
Dr N Nlambo briefed the Committee on the nature of the African military environment and the challenges that were likely to face the SANDF in operations in Africa and abroad. Today, international security was tenuous, and in the past ten years Africa had been ravaged by numerous regional and civil conflicts. The 1996 White Paper did not accurately specify what peacekeeping operations the SANDF may be called upon to do. The Second Defence Review should tackle logistical challenges to peacekeeping, such as the diverse African terrain, movement and transport problems, lack of comprehensive maps and the aerial threats of man-portable air-to-air missiles.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) questioned why South Africa's Defence position was apparently contradictory. How did the volatile global political climate complicate threat analyses and security definitions?

Dr Nlambo replied that South Africa's Defence strategy had reverted from aggression to defence since 1994, but had emphasised a new proactive role in Africa. The first move required downsizing but the second required expanding Defence infrastructure.

Mr Dlali disputed the requirement for 24-hour deployment of reaction forces. Generally it could take four weeks to deploy troops.

Dr Nlambo referred to UN and AU documents that specified 24 hours. Whether that rapidity was feasible to South Africa depended on the readiness of the SANDF.

Mr M Booi (ANC) was concerned that the paper presented South Africa as a Big Brother over Africa.
Dr Nlambo dismissed the query. The intention of his paper was to assess the military readiness of South Africa in relation to Africa.

Mr Ndlovu (ANC) asked about the paper's prioritisation of aircraft procurement. How did it find Puma helicopters better than Rooivalk helicopters?

Dr Nlambo replied that the paper drew attention to the different functions of each. The Puma was a transport helicopter, while the Rooivalk was an attack helicopter.

Mr Sayedali-Shah asked if the paper had studied the engineering capacities of the AU and SADC before suggesting that South Africa must strengthen her military and civil engineering units for building roads and bridges on missions.

Dr Nlambo responded that various African Defence Forces had revealed their insufficient engineering capacities. On shared missions with these forces, South Africa would have to provide its own engineering.

AMD (South African Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association) submission
General Moloi (Chairperson, AMD) was distressed at the government's non-committal approach to South African Defence Related Industries (SADRI). Local industries were under threat from reduced international and local demand for defence equipment, and outflows of workers were not matched by intakes. Government appeared to protect foreign competitors of SADRI, which were forming into global conglomerates with monopolistic potential.

General Moloi urged the Committee to market SADRI in Parliament and to encourage domestic trade in equipment and arms. AMD requested policy and legislation giving first right of refusal to South African industries on all defence acquisition for the SANDF, stating that 'such contracts must be placed with the local industry if it proposes an acceptable solution at a cost premium of 20% or less compared to the best foreign offer.' AMD also asked to be included in the research and drafting of reviews of Defence policies.

Mr Schmidt asked if AMD required purely government support or if it could accept political support, i.e. support from the opposition.

Mr R Ngwenya (Executive Director, AMD) replied that government could be of more use with facilitating research and development into Defence related industries. It appeared that government offered services more readily to foreign investors in Defence.

The Chairperson was unclear why AMD felt foreign policy considerations were applied 'dogmatically' in arms export decisions. He pointed out that the 20% premium on contracts meant those contracts would be 20% more expensive than competitor contracts.

General Moloi said that government had sufficient means to open doors for local industries, to help them do business both locally and abroad. There was an erosion of skills in the arms industry; government should address this by marketing the industry to the youth and protecting it from big foreign businesses.

The Chairperson advised AMD to develop its points on licenses and permits before making related suggestions.

Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) submission
Mr G Lamb (Senior Researcher) briefed the Committee on the CCR submission. South Africa had become increasingly involved in peacekeeping operations. In 2003 the SANDF was ranked tenth largest troop contributor internationally and third largest in Africa. The Military Ombudsperson, commissioned by the Defence White Paper (1996), was currently under-resourced and needed urgent attention. Between 1996 and 2004 the Defence force had downsized resulting in a considerable loss of technical expertise and a withering supply of men and women to the SANDF. According to the media, 23% of the SANDF was infected with HIV. No civic education on SANDF development courses and appropriate operational training courses had been forthcoming out of section 92 of the Defence Review (1998). CCR studies of ex-servicemen in society found a high percentage were unemployed (sample statistics) and many suffered psychological disorders.

Mr Sayedali-Shah recalled that the function of the ombudsperson was not clear yet. Could the issue with the ombudsperson be addressed within the military justice system?

Mr Lamb pointed to the prevalent role of the military in police affairs, in which context the public had no mechanism for reporting mistreatment. The public protector heard only complaints against police. Therefore the military ombudsperson was a vital leverage for public reaction to the military.

Mr Dlali asked how downsizing the SANDF could be pursued without skewing the age profile of the military and removing technically skilled persons. Why had there been no civic education implemented by the SANDF?

Mr Lamb replied that government could apply itself more to aiding the Department with recruiting SANDF personnel and plugging skills erosion within the Force. The slow implementation of civic education was worrisome. Implementing agencies should be pressed harder.

Mr Booi asked Mr Lamb to advise the Department what route it should take to fill holes in implementation. Mr Lamb could not answer off hand.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) queried the assertion that the Service Corps should not be located in the Department. If people were provided with life skills while they were in the service they would not struggle to re-integrate into civil society.

Mr Lamb responded that the Service Corps, according to the Defence Review, must be an independent organisation assisting with social reintegration of members. It was not appropriate to have military personnel providing life skills to these persons, as was happening now.

Mr O Monareng was perturbed that there were psychological disorders among former combatants. Where was the evidence gleaned from, he asked?

Mr Lamb said the information came from sample surveys of ex-combatants of the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), living in all nine provinces. The surveys consisted of a 30-page questionnaire. The Chairperson asked Mr Lamb to send a copy of the questionnaire to the Committee.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) submission
Mr L Le Roux (Major-General Ret), Defence Sector Programme, briefed the Committee on the concerns and recommendations of the ISS. Mr Le Roux headlined four concerns: the definitions of primary and secondary roles of the SANDF; new demands on the SANDF; the role of the part time component of the SANDF; and internal efficiencies of the Department. He recommended that the Review should revisit the definition of 'Primary Functions' of the SANDF; initiate studies on the feasibility of 'confidence building defence'; revise and update the part time component of the SANDF and interrogate the internal efficiencies of the Department.

Mr O Monareng asked how the management structure of the SANDF could be downsized in proportion to common personnel downsizing since 1994.

Mr Le Roux replied that the various Headquarter structures of the SANDF were overstaffed. They needed to be reduced. Most countries had a ratio of generals to troops at around 1:1 500, whereas in South Africa it was 1:300.

Mr Schmidt sensed a gaping 'void' in the paper between South Africa and African regional structures. South Africa seemed to be isolated in her defence strategy from other African countries.

Mr Le Roux said the paper dealt comprehensively with South Africa's role in the AU and SADC, on pages 8, 9 and 20.

Mr Booi challenged the paper's suggestion that high levels of domestic crime had necessitated an SANDF role in policing crime. He was aware that crime levels had been dropping over the past years. He also accused the paper of dogmatically favouring old principles of the SANDF.

Mr Le Roux appreciated that Defence policy wished to distinguish the functions of Military and Police. However, both the White Paper and the First Defence Review solicited the role of Defence in maintaining law and order beyond the capacity of the police. The nature of violent and organised crime in South Africa and Africa today was such that the capacity of the police to deal with threats was stretched. Pirates and Warlords ran amok throughout many African regions and coastlines. The Military must be prepared to engage these threats.

Mr Dlali was worried that the suggested definition of the primary function of the SANDF- 'To act as an instrument for Government in conflict prevention and conflict intervention'- was too reactive and not pro-active. Also, how could limiting the size of the regular force act as an important confidence building measure? The use of the word 'commandos' was disconcerting; it had regressive, negative connotations.

Mr Le Roux responded that the suggested definition was linked to South Africa's emerging role in regional conflict preventions. He would send the Committee a paper on Confidence Building. Commandos referred to the previous territorial reserve arm of the SADF. The Defence Review was phasing out these commandos, but the paper wished to stress the importance of having a national territorial reserve. The Government should not be acting on historical premises when the territorial reserve had a current role to play in Defence.

The Chairperson noted the term 'non-provocative defence' next to confidence building. What would be considered provocative defence? Mr Le Roux promised to send a paper to the Committee on non-provocative defence.

Advisory Board on Military Veterans Affairs submission
Mr D Mathe (Chairperson) briefed the Committee on the plight of military veterans. He suggested the Committee move to establish a White Paper on Veterans Affairs. It seemed that the Department and all tiers of government were unaware of the 'scope and depth of their responsibilities in the Military Veterans Affairs Act (1999)'.

Mr Sayedali-Shah wondered why only a short-term Directorate of Military Veterans Affairs was wanted. He queried the number of Veterans Associations in existence and their functions in Veterans Affairs.

Mr Mathe replied that a short-term directorate would alleviate the immediate crisis facing Veterans, such as lack of homes and jobs. Existing Veterans Associations were under-resourced and not accredited by Government to enforce Veterans rights.

The Chairperson could not see a reason why Veterans should receive pension at age 55 and not retired mineworkers, who were also physically worn out at the end of their careers. Changing to 55 would mean changing legislation on older persons.

Mr Monareng asked if Mr Mathe could verify the claims of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, that veterans were experiencing psychological disorders.

Mr Mathe could verify the high unemployment figures, which in the long term were as high as 67%, but he could not confirm reports on psychological disorders.

The Chairperson concluded that the Committee should conduct further hearings on Veterans Associations, to establish their function and align it with policy.

South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) submission
Ms L Nkoko (First Vice president, SASFU) briefed the Committee on the SASFU submission. She was surprised to learn from the hearings about the existence of a Military Ombudsperson. SASFU was concerned with the absence of principles and ideals of the Defence Review from the everyday conditions of soldiers. The military justice system was exclusionary in favour of higher ranked personnel. Labour related grievances of the lowest ranked soldiers were often transformed into disciplinary issues against the complainant.
Given that SASFU had no right to engage worker strikes, it urged the Department to institute satisfactory labour relations channels for military personnel.

The Chairperson asked what had happened to SASFU's collective bargaining campaign of three months ago.

Mr Sayedali-Shah was perplexed at how labour related issues could blur into disciplinary issues. He felt the point that the flawed military justice system afflicted mostly African personnel was redundant because Africans constituted more than 90% of the Military.

Ms Nkoko replied that a soldier who challenged his or her superior on a labour related issue was charged with insubordination. He or she ended up in court on a disciplinary hearing rather than a labour hearing. If the error got corrected he or she would have to sit through another separate court hearing. The whole confused process wasted time and increased costs all round.

Ceasefire Campaign submission
Mr C Khumalo briefed the Committee. He said that in the absence of an imminent conventional threat to South Africa, Defence policy and expenditure should reflect human security issues like unemployment, poverty and HIV/AIDS. In these times, the secondary functions of Defence were increasingly important. The Ceasefire Campaign wanted to see peacekeeping policies regulated by the Foreign Affairs Department and not Defence. There could be more involvement of civilians in peacekeeping campaigns; they were more apt for instituting human rights than the military. Mr Khumalo exclaimed that military spending frightened civilians, which was a constitutional indiscretion.

The Chairperson notified Mr Khumalo that the Constitution spelt out that there must be a SANDF. This meant the SANDF had to be properly equipped for all defence circumstances and for unforeseen scenarios that could take place without warning.

Mr Khumalo appreciated the constitutional requirements, which laid heavy emphases on security threats. At the moment, facing no foreseeable threats, Defence resources should be redirected; they should not sit idly awaiting unexpected happenings.

Mr Booi asked how civilians could be safely introduced into peacekeeping programmes in African regions.

Mr Khumalo replied that he had submitted an enquiry to the UN into civilian functions in peacekeeping operations. Training could revolve around rebuilding confidence in peacekeeping and human rights institutions. Skills and knowledge could be shared between nationalities to develop a universalistic stance on peace operations.

CSIR Defencetek submission
Mr A Nepgen briefed the committee on the concerns and recommendations of CSIR. He highlighted the gap between Government's original policy position and its implementation of Defence, Science, Engineering and Technology (SET). He recommended an additional chapter in the White Paper treating the gap in the 'generation, retention and application of defence SET'. Furthermore, he advised the Second Defence Review to consolidate existing state owned Defence SET capabilities into a central Defence Set or SADERI, with expanded functions; create the position of a Chief of Defence Set; market the SET-base to 'grow a new generation of Defence scientists and engineers' and to expand the Department budget.

Mr Schmidt asked if the Defence SET industries applied to civilian as well as military life.

Mr Nepgen replied that Defence SET did have a prominent dual function as a leading provider of industrial capability. The Department of Trade and Industry had emphasised this.

Adv Z Madasa (ACDM) asked if a new generation of scientists and engineers was expected from South Africa only or from Africa in general. Mr Nepgen answered yes, this 'generational' calling applied to the whole African Union.

Mr Monareng indicated that there was already a Chief of Defence. Did Mr Nepgen perhaps mean a Chief of Staff? Mr Nepgen replied that the exact title was not critical, so long as the appointed person was a high-level champion of the Defence SET, and board Chairperson.

Mr Dlali asked for elaboration on the proposed new Chapter in the Defence Review.

Mr Nepgen responded that up until now the impact of Defence SET had been under-emphasised. A new Chapter could attend wholly to highlighting the impact of Defence SET, and establishing infrastructure accordingly.

Mr Sayedali Shah enquired whether Mr Nepgen felt that the current South African Tertiary curricula were suitable for growing new Scientists and Engineers.

Mr Nepgen answered that the intake from schools into Defence SET related qualifications was poor and needed improvement. The capacity of South African tertiary education systems to stimulate growth in Defence SET careers was also insufficient.

South African Catholic Bishops Conference submission
Adv M Pothier presented. What had been lacking from discussions today was an enquiry into the causes of threats. He felt that peacekeeping ought to be the absolute focus of Defence. Jet fighters, tanks and submarines were expensive and their use in South Africa's current political context was largely redundant. Transport facilities for peacekeeping had to be higher on the defence acquisitions agenda. Early acquisitions had been sold to the public on the basis of their collateral capabilities. However, recent specific investments into collateral defence showed that the public was misled. Mr Pothier called for a more holistic Government approach to defence.

There was insufficient time for discussion.

The meeting was adjourned.


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