Address by Mr BH Holomisa, MP (UDM President) on Budget Vote 22: Defence and Military Veterans on 23 July 2014 in the National Assembly
Honourable Minister and Deputy Minister
The United Democratic Movement supports budget vote 22.
The department is one of the fortunate to have retained its Minister after 2014 elections therefore promising continuity of strategy and direction. As a member of the Defence Service Commission, I concur with defence force programme and plans as announced by the Minister today.
Whilst appreciating minister’s input, however, as a country we need to look at some of the mandates given to us especially peace keeping related tasks. South Africa must always consider these tasks against its own safety, the safety of the troops deployed and its people.
Conditions of service and equipment of the South African National Defence Force has not yet reached the expected standards and levels, much still need to be done. This situation is further exacerbated by a bloated bureaucracy and lack of professionalism within the defence force.
Whilst the concept of civilian oversight, we all endorse, this house need to evaluate as to what extent is the approach affecting the capacity of the defence force in discharging its Constitutional mandate.
The defence is an instruction based institution underpinned by key fundamental principles of high level discipline, speed and control.
President Zuma, in 2010 appointed an Interim Force Service Commission to look at the challenges confronting the defence force at the time, as we all know the findings of the commission are well documented.
The frustrating part is the slow pace in implementing the recommendations of the commission. It becomes more frustrating learning that some allocated budgets are under-utilised and returned to the fiscus.
The United Democratic Movement recommends that this house, reconsider returning the Accounting Officer’s powers back to the Commander of the Defence Force and retain the civilian oversight in the Minister’s office.
Such a bold step shall drastically increase the speed at which the conditions of service of our Defence Force are improved. It will further reduce the amount of bureaucratic red tape.