Speech: Debate on the Defence Amendment Bill National Assembly, Cape Town
26 Oct 2010
This Amendment Bill, the second Amendment to the Defence Force Act, has been occasioned by three separate issues that needed our urgent attention. The first is the creation of a new dispensation for the Defence Force, with the establishment of the Defence Force Commission, the Obligation to serve for the Reserve Force Members and the Military Command. To this end this marks the end of a saga. A saga based on a deliberate misunderstanding intended to inflame and misrepresent. I will come back in detail on this matter.
As it marks the end of a saga it also ushers in the beginning of a better dispensation for the Defence Force and the opportunity to deal with the needs of our soldiers in an environment that is very unique and requires unique responses. When we took over government in 1994 and adopted a minimalist approach in 1995, our intention was very clear. Defence had to be changed from what it was in the Apartheid days to reflect the ethos of the present.
In our eagerness to do this we rode rough shod over a number of matters.
We are now saddled with a situation where conversion of a Defence Force to a department of State is not working and it impedes development of a Force as a Force. We have sought therefore to create a dispensation that responds to the uniqueness of Defence.
The Constitution requires the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to be “structured and managed as a disciplined military force”. Internationally, service in the military differs from that in the civilian sector in that high standards of patriotism, discipline, courage and self-sacrifice that are demanded in the execution of duties, unity of command and obedience to legitimate orders from superiors are the foundations of military cohesion and the attainment of military objectives.
By their nature, these prerequisites underscore the uniqueness of military service and therefore require a different approach towards determination of conditions of service within the military. The proposed establishment of the National Defence Force Service Conditions (NDFSC) responds to this need and seeks to create a unique military service dispensation outside the general public service.
With this legislation we create the commission that will do for the Defence Force some of the work that the Public Service Commission (PSC) does for the Public Service. The Minister of the Public Service and Administration issues regulations that govern the public service. The regulations governing the public service can hardly be the environment in which we manage a military Force. Through this legislation we will now have the Minister of Defence issuing the regulations for the Defence Force. These regulations are called the Conditions of Service of the Defence Force with the recommendation of the Commission.
In the Public Service these are called the conditions of Service of the Public Service so too in the Defence Force are they called the conditions of Service of the Defence Force. They will cover a whole range of matters from promotions, ranks and many others. In short condition of service covers the totality of how the State relates to the Defence Force. The terms of engagement as it were.
It is not about what you were reading about in the media in that the bill relates to the living conditions of soldiers. Conditions of service is a technical term used exclusively in the Public Service to mean the conditions under which both the State and the entity will abide by, as they continue to conduct their relationship.
Through this Bill, the Commission that will be established will put us on an internationally accepted practice. A commission of this nature is part and parcel of the governance structures of the defence force. We have sought and received a great deal of support form the Public Service Commission. They see in this a sectoral but much needed help in their constitutional mandate. We have negotiated what we will be responsible for and we remain committed to ensuring that we will provide them with reports of our work on an annual basis.
Having said that, please allow me to offer my profound gratitude to the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission whose job included assistance in crafting the bill before you now. For the past two years the department has been engaged in studies involving several countries and when the Interim Commission was established, that work was handed over to them to do. I thank them for that.
I want to underline here that the creation of a Defence Force Service Commission had nothing to do with the protesting soldiers. It is a commission I mooted two months before the protests in this house during my budget vote speech on 3 July 2009.
It is an institution we established in the Intelligence Services in 2002 and it worked. It gave me the experience that I sought to bring to defence. It is an institution the Defence Force had been battling to establish for some time and if Honourable Lekota was not busy fighting for the leadership of the ANC, he ought to have attended to a long time ago. However, when the Interim Commission was established, we thought it wise that they might as well look at a number of issues.
When they have concluded that work, the report will be presented to cabinet and thereafter tabled here. I repeat for emphasis that the establishment of the Commission was not in response to the deplorable conduct that took place at the Union Buildings. Instead the Bill establishes a mechanism to deal with the unique position of Defence in our overall governance structures.
Secondly, the Bill fills a lacuna we experienced in the appointment of the Chief of the Defence Force. We defined here what the Constitution is referred to as a Military Command. Section 202(1) directs the President to “appoint Military Command of the defence force”. The Constitution, however, does not define or provide any guidance on who should constitute the envisaged Military Command. The Defence Act, 2002 also does not provide any guidance in this regard. The proposed insertion of a new Section 4A in the Defence Amendment Bill seeks to address this lacuna in the law and to create certainty as to the composition of the Military Command.
The Military Command as proposed in the Bill shall include:
(a) The Chief of the Defence Force
(b) The Chief of the South African Army
(c) The Chief of the South African Air Force
(d) The Chief of the South African Navy
(e) The Surgeon-General of the South African Military Health Service
(f) The Chief of Joint Operations of the Defence Force
(g) The Chief of Defence Intelligence
(h) The Chief of Human Resources
(i) The Chief of Logistics.
This composition is informed by the level of the posts (three star level) and responsibility for the command of the forces. Finally the bill also regularises the deployment of the Reserve Force in peace-time, a much needed step that will assist us overcome a number of impediments. Reserve Force members currently serve on a voluntary basis or render service in terms of a contract. Put simply, they are only compellable to serve during times of war, a state of national defence or a state of emergency. This state of affairs presents practical problems for the SANDF as it is difficult to plan and budget when the availability of the force cannot be guaranteed.
The Bill makes it a requirement for Reserve Force members to conclude a contract of service with the Defence Force. Such contract will set out the periods of service that a Reserve Force member is liable to render. To ensure that Reserve Force members present themselves for service when required to do so, the Bill creates an obligation for the members to comply with a call-up order unless they have been exempted or granted a deferment of service by the Exemption Board in terms of section 68 of the Defence Act.
I thank those members of the Committee who supported the bill, the Defence Force needed this a long time ago. For those who did not support the bill and been very vocal in misleading the public, the same public will in time understand that your motives in the Committees have been deliberate and treacherously unpatriotic.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Defence
26 Oct 2010
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