B-Matt Report : Response by Minister of Defence

Defence

21 September 1998
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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE

22 September 1998

B-MATT REPORT : RESPONSE BY MINISTER OF DEFENCE

Document handed out:

Operation Boleas: media release (see Appendix)

DETAILED MINUTES

The acting committee chairperson, Mr. Mashimbye (ANC), outlined the aim of the meeting: to hear the responses of the Minister of Defence and Chief of the Army to the BMATT Report.

Mr. Smit (NP) asked if the Minister could give the committee a briefing on the raid of SANDF troops in Lesotho and who had authorised the raid. Mr Makwetu (ANC) pointed out that the Constitution states that this committee must be informed within fourteen days whenever troops are applied across the border.

Deputy-Minister Kasrils (on behalf of Minister Modise) stated that he could not give a briefing but assured the committee that the Minister was presently in Pretoria having discussions with the Chief of the Defence Force and other officials, and that a press conference would be held later. All that the Deputy Minister could say was that a request was made by the Lesotho government to the governments of SADC to provide a political solution to the problem, however as these failed, a request for military intervention was made, Hence the involvement of South African and Botswanan troops . According to Mr. Kasrils, there had been a few casualties for the South African troops.

Mr Smit felt that the committee should be briefed on the Lesotho situation before the committee adjourned the following evening. A request was also made by an Ms Mandela (ANC) to be briefed on the situation in the Congo. Mr. Kasrils assured them that parliament would be briefed.

Deputy-Minister’s Response to BMATT Report:

According to the B-Matt report, the integration process had been moved down in the SANDF’s order of priorities. There was a hardening of attitude by SADF personnel towards the Non-Statutory Forces (NSFs), which could be traced back to March/April 1997. According to Mr. Kasrils, this was when the Minister made apparent the proposed nominations for deputy positions in the SANDF. This could be a possible reason why B-Matt was experiencing a hardening of attitudes and a resistance to change. The B-Matt report highlighted a number of disputes which existed, regarding NSF international courses not being accepted, bridging training being slowed down and the training syllabus being out-of-date. According to the report, demobilisation and rationalisation had slowed down. It was found that mostly black short-term personnel had been retrenched, which, according to Mr. Kasrils, the Minister has stopped. An increasing number of former SADF officials also conceded that non-statutory personnel were being side-lined. Further problems cited by the report were: the APLA board problem, the refusal of the Medical Services to accept the adjudication of B-Matt, as well as too few changes to the symbols and images of the Army.

Although these problems existed, the BMATT report stated that with commitment and good will transformation could still be kept on course and intergration could succeed.

The then Chief of the SANDF, General Meiring, and Chief of the Army, General Otto, felt that the report was subjective. However, the Ministry believed that this was a overreaction and a bitter response to the report, and therefore rejected General Otto's views outright. The Ministry believed that the report was completely objective and accurate, based on various other reports which shared the view of B-Matt, and of one in particular which was even harsher than the B-Matt report. The Ministry found B-Matt fair and incredibly helpful. The problems focused on by the report was to the advantage of the Department and "exceptionally useful". The Ministry subsequently sent letters of praise and thanks to the British Government and British Security Forces, for the work of the B-Matt team. Furthermore, General Otto was rebuked by the Minister for his negative responses to the B-Matt report. Since the report, the changes in the command of the SANDF have all had positive impact on the transformation process.

Mr. Kasrils explained that the Department and Ministry had focussed on content rather than image regarding the transformation process. The report made apparent the importance of transforming the image of the SANDF. Since then, the Department has set about establishing a common heritage based on the role of the Boer leaders and African Chiefs against British colonialism, as well as the role South African soldiers, particularly black soldiers, played in World War One and Two. One can note this when visiting the Military Academy in Saldanha. The Department was in the process of commissioning artists to provide paintings of this common heritage of resistance against oppression, and of the new SANDF.

Mr. Kasrils stated that under the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Directive, the Chief of Personnel, would now report directly to the Minister, and that a Monitoring Group, comprising of experts in equal opportunities as well as three members of the committee, would be established, to alert parliament of problems of the B-Matt nature.

B-Matt felt that they did not have enough access to the former Chief of the Army, however according to Mr. Kasrils, the present situation could not be better. The latest report of B-Matt, according to Mr. Kasrils, shows areas where change is still slow, but which are being addressed. Mr. Kasrils stressed the difficulty of changing attitudes and the culture in the SANDF, but that the new command structure was very positive.

A monitoring group will investigate prejudice and obstructiveness and career problems and the committee was invited to provide three members for this group.

Response by General Ramano (Chief of Army)

The General stated that since becoming the Chief of Army, his priority had been to redress the problems highlighted by BMatt and he was happy with the progress made in the last sixty days. At present there was no problem with B-Matt. Contact had been reestablished and maintained. Regular meetings took place between himself and the B-Matt Commander. The General was satisfied with the progress of transformation in the Army.

The Chairperson stated that it was necessary for members of parliament to visit the SANDF to monitor the situation for themselves.

Mr. Makwetla (ANC) requested more clarity on the integration process, because according to the report even the translation stage of the process was slow.

The Deputy-Minister replied that the integration and verification process under Gen. Moloi was much better. Gen. Ramano added that the process was working very well, in new offices, and that a report would be made to the committee soon.

The Chairperson said that he believed a more in-depth briefing was needed on the technical aspects of the verification and integration process in the Army.

The Deputy-Minister described the process in simple terms as auditing the personal file of members to verify qualifications and training. He further added that it was not legally possible to take on anymore full-time ex-APLA/MK members. (As result there had been incidents of fraud where people were using other members’ names). The Department encourages these people to join the part-time forces.

In response to another question by Mr. Makwetla, Mr. Kasrils stated that the Ministry had indeed been swift in responding to the views of Gen. Otto regarding B-Matt. The Ministry had sent letters to the committee, and were ready at the time to brief the committee. According to Kasrils, the report which the committee had received, should strictly not have been sent, because it did not guard against the neutrality of B-Matt. This must be ensured in the future, as the Ministry has proved to be transparent.

Mr Mashimbye (ANC) reminded members that they were awaiting the defence acquisition report on which they needed more briefings and they might have to make themselves available during the recess. The Deputy-Minister then authorised the official press release of a document from the SANDF regarding the raid into Lesotho.

Appendix 1: Operation Boleas in Lesotho: 22 September 1998


MEDIA RELEASE

OPERATION BOLEAS/ONE

22 September 1998

Embargo:None

ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS/MILITARY CORRESPONDENTS

OPERATION BOLEAS –

Early today a combined task force of troops from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) crossed the border into the Kingdom of Lesotho to assist the lawful Government to restore stability to that Kingdom. Operation Boleas was launched at 05H00 this morning.

The current political crisis in Lesotho is the result of the disputed May 98 General Elections. Dissatisfaction by the opposition groups spilled over into unrest and finally led to an uprising in the Lesotho Defence Force. Efforts to dissolve this crisis by peacful means have proved unsuccessful.

The military intervention is being done at the request of the Kingdom of Lesotho, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in accordance with SADC agreements. The aim of the intervention is to restore stability as quickly as possible and to withdraw from the Kingdom of Lesotho as soon as this has been achieved.

The Prime Minister and Head of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho requested in writing from the heads of state of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, military intervention to restore normality.

The President's office instructed the SANDF to conduct contingency planning on the 16th Sept. 98 . Authority was also granted to the BDF to enter South Africa with their equipment to participate in this combined operation.

Late evening of 20 September the combined Task Force Headquarters took up position in Ladybrand supported by 6 Oryx helicopters at AFB Bloemspruit. This pre-positioning was merely a show of force and part of the contingency plan which was made and activated late in the afternoon of 20 Sept. 98.

Under the operational command of combined Task Force (CTF) Boleas, are the following elements:

Army elements (BDF and SA Army)

1X CTF Headquarters (HQ) from 43 Mechanised Brigade ( MECH BDE) – Ratel Command (24) (Personnel)

1X Regiment (REGT) HQ from 1 Special Service Battalion (1SSB) – Ratel Comd - (18)

1X Battalion (BN) HQ from BDF - (15)

1X Mech Infantry (INF) Company (COY) from 1 SAI BN - Ratel 20 - (135)

1X Mech INF COY from BDF – Armoured Perssonel Carrier (APV) (130)

1X Motorised (MOT) INF COY from 151 SAI BN - Samil 20 -(135)

1X Parachute Company (PARA COY) from 44 PARA BDE – On standby for duration of operation

1X Armed car squadron (SQN) from 1 SSB Ratel 90 (60)

1X Mortar fire group (GP) from 1 SAI BN -Ratel 81 (48)

1X Anti- Tank GP from 1 SAI BN - Ratel 90 - (42)

1X Pathfinder Platoon (PL) from 44 PARA BDE – On standby if needed

1X PROVOST Platoon (Military Police) from OFS COMD PRO UNIT - Mamba -(35)

South African Air Force Elements

2X Mobile Air Operations Teams (MAOTS)

6X Oryx Helicopters

2X Alouette III Helicopters – In gunship configuration

1X Cessna 208

Military Health Service Elements

Medical Task Group

The SANDF elements started moving late yestarday evening from Bloemfontein to Ladybrand. They crossed the Border at 05H00 this morning.

The Botswana elements moved down last night and will join the SANDF elements early this morning.

The main objectives at this stage are to create a safe enviroment by securing or controlling the Maseru Bridge Border post, the Lesotho Defence Force Military Bases, The Radio Broadcasting Station, Embassies and SA High Commision, Royal Palace, Airports, Government Buildings, power and water supply facilities. All relevant role players will be liaised with.

The final and most important objective once stability has been achieved is to enable the Lesotho Police Sevices (LPS) to restore and maintain law and order in conjunction with the LPS and the Inter State Defence and Security Committee and the SADC (ISDSC) Policing Component.

_______________________________________________________________

Media Release

22 September 1998

OPERATION BOLEAS : UPDATE 1

SANDF members crossed the border into Maseru at 05h00 on 22 Sep 98. The CSANDF confirms the following casualties of SANDF members:

A total of 3 members were killed and 11 wounded. The known details of those wounded follow:

1x Shrapnel in leg.

1x Light wound in shoulder.

1x Injured in face and lungs. The member was casevaced to Ladybrand Hospital.

2x Priority 2 injuries to be casevaced to 3 Military Hospital.

The injuries of the remainder of the wounded are unknown. The identities of the casualties will be released when their next-of-kin have been informed.

The duration of the operation is, at this stage, unknown, as some opposition is being experienced. Fire was drawn at the Royal Palace and mutineers resisted the CTF at the Ratjemose and Makonyane military bases and Katse Dam. Initially, they presented strong armed resistance, but were overpowered by the momentum of the task force. Royal Lesotho Defence Force members, when found in their bases, are to be disarmed and handed over to the Lesotho civil authorities.

The Alouette helicopters drew heavy hostile fire at Makonyane Military Base, on the outskirts of Maseru, and returned fire. 1x Oryx helicopter was damaged by small-arms fire and has returned to Ladybrand.

The objective is still to restore peace and stability to the Kingdom of Lesotho as soon as possible and assist the Lesotho civil authorities to regain and maintain law and order.

No military force other than the SANDF is deployed as part of the SADEC force at present. The BDF elements have not arrived in Maseru yet, but are expected there later today, 22 Sep 98.

The next update of the operation will be published as soon as more information is available.

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