Department on Closure of Military Bases: briefing

Defence

25 September 2001
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Meeting report

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE

DEFENCE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE
26 September 2001
DEPARTMENT ON CLOSURE OF MILITARY BASES: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr J N Mashimbye

Relevant Documents
Joint Standing Committee Report

SUMMARY
The Department of Defence identified the military facilities which it had surrendered to the Department of Public Works for community use. Totally redundant bases are to be converted for non-military use whilst under utilised bases are to be used jointly by the Department of Defence and other suitable partners either from the public or private sectors.

Military base conversion has been recognised as an important mechanism by which the Department's facilities could be downsized while at the same time meeting the socio-economic objectives of the government.

The Committee, however, was not impressed by the report on the use of military facilities presented. Core policy issues regarding the disposal of military bases were not explained.

Briefing by General S.T Ndabula
Gen. Ndabula informed the Committee that some military bases are identified for disposal whilst others will be co-used with suitable partners either from the public or the private sector.

The facilities’ auditing process in the DOD is in line with the Forces’ Structure Redesign which identify bases that are redundant and those that are partially redundant or under utilised.

Bases that are totally redundant will be converted for non-military use whilst those that are under-utilised will be jointly used with the DOD and other ‘suitable partners’ either in the public or private sector.

Gen. Ndabula said that there is concerted effort in the DOD to reduce costs and increase efficiency by reducing the ‘footprints’ of the SANDF without sacrificing any unique strategic base or facility.

The Department of Works (DPW) under whose portfolio all the State’s property falls has undertaken an investigation to assess the manner in which optimal utilisation of the under-utilised and redundant military bases could be achieved.

The DPW through State Tender Process, appointed consultants to execute the investigation and prepare proposals for the conversion of the identified bases. At the end of September the consultants will complete their investigation and submitted recommendations on development strategies for conversion of the identified bases to the DPW.

Gen. Ndabula took members through the various bases identified as redundant to the DOD core business and the ones that are marked for conversion to non-military use. He explained that the bases have to be taken through the process of conversion to non-military use.

The present status of the different bases in the conversion process is clearly marked in the report. Some of the bases have already been handed over to the Department of Works and are no longer DOD property.

Discussion
Mr McIntosh asked what is meant by co-use and if it meant military activities would be sustained there.

Gen. Ndabula explained that co-use means military activities would remain on the base and only part of the facility would be handed over for co-use; for instance some air bases would be co-used with civilian aircraft.

Mr Smit (NP) asked if there was a specific program or timetable within which the disposal would be complete.

Gen.Ndabula replied that the DPW would be in a better position to handle the question since they are the ones who deal with the properties after hand-over.

Mr Schalkwyk (DP) enquired about the cost implication of the closure of the military facilities and the effect of such closure to the operation and training of military personnel.

Gen. Ndabula replied that the force undertook a detailed audit of the operating costs and decided that it could not afford to maintain the facilities since most were redundant whilst others were severely under-utilised. The disposal and co-use are essentially a cost saving measure.

Mr Smit (NP) asked if the World Bank was involved at some stage and if so to what extent.

Gen. Ndabula stated that the World Bank paid the sum of one million rands to the DPW to pay for consultancy fee.

Mr Ndlovu (IFP) lamented that there was confusion as to who is actually in charge of this process. At one stage it seems the DPW is featuring prominently while at other areas it is the DOD. He suggested that both departments be present for the presentation.

Mr Ngculu (ANC) concurred with Ndlovu that the report is clearly incomplete. Vital information that would have clarified the position is missing from the report. He said issues such as the explanation of why the World Bank is interested, whether tenders to the property are already out are not properly expressed in the report.

Mr Schalkwyk (DP) agreed that the report is wanting in many respects. The heads of the affected military bases and financial officers should be summoned to reply to the crucial questions raised.

Mr Diale (ANC) asked why the Department of Works was not present to which Gen. Ndabula replied that he had been assured by the Department that they would send a representative but he is surprised that none had been sent.

Mr Mabeta (ANC) said that there are questions like who are the stakeholders in the proposed tenders and land claims, which need to be clearly addressed.

The Chair said that although the briefing was not part of the program for the year this was an important issue. He did not recall any time that Parliament had passed a National Defence Convention Strategy where such issues could have been debated. The discussion had been out of context since the closure of military bases was not merely a question of physical closure but had to do with policy, retrenchments, strategy etc.

The Chair said that he would write to the minister to inform him that the meeting did not realise its objective and the committee is not finished with the matter yet.

The meeting was adjourned.



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