SANDF Needs New Leadership
Pretoria - The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) on Wednesday said recent media reports about the SA National Defence Force's low state of readiness reinforced its calls for the replacement of the military's leadership and political head.
"The media is correct in concluding that the crux of the problem, pertaining to the sorry state of affairs within the Department of Defence (DoD), is attributable to poor management. The poor management of the DoD, by specifically the Minister (Mosiuoa Lekota) and Secretary of Defence (January Masilela), is indeed a matter that should bear the scrutiny of public concern," Sandu said in a statement.
"Poor management and ignorance pertaining to operational matters concerning the department have lead to its representatives furnishing the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence with information, which, a week later, is contradicted by an official media spokesperson of the very same department.
"This incident leaves doubt whether there indeed is anyone in the DoD who really knows what is going on in that department.
Sandu national secretary Cor van Niekerk said he had no doubt that Lekota and Masilela were responsible for the sorry state the defence force found itself in.
"This state of affairs can no longer be allowed to continue. Decisive action must be taken immediately," Van Niekerk said.
"This action should however not be entrusted (to) the current minister and secretary as they already have proved themselves incapable of managing the DoD efficiently.
Sandu also repeated their call for President Thabo Mbeki to establish a commission of inquiry into the conduct of Lekota and his department, regarding their "disregard for parliamentary institutions and the rights and interests of soldiers, and the effect thereof on the state of the national defence force".
Asked for comment, Lekota's spokesperson, Sam Mkhwanazi, dismissed Van Niekerk's call as "grandstanding" and said it could not be taken seriously.
Lekota and Sandu have frequently bumped heads over personnel issues and the military's disciplinary system and Sandu's statement had to be seen in that context.
Meanwhile, the commanders of some of the country's 183 commando units and 52 reserve regiments were also voicing their discontent with the leadership of the reserve forces.
The disgruntled officers, who did not want to be identified, said structures that were meant to represent them at departmental and ministerial level were failing to carry out their mandate and had also abdicated their responsibility to keep parliament informed about the state of affairs in the reserves.
Instead officers sitting on these councils were using their positions for self-aggrandisement, they said.
Members of parliament were also planning to call for a debate on the state of the SANDF.
In May defence portfolio committee chairperson Thandi Modise at a SANDF budget meeting expressed her surprise that the force's strength was "far below the 76 000 uniformed members we thought were being employed. That was parliament's understanding," she said.
She had just been told the SANDF had 60 133 uniformed members and about 16 000 public service personnel in mid-April.
"Parliament approved a reduction of military personnel to 70 000. We will not be part of a mockery of whittling this away. We cannot continue to learn of developments through the media and leakages rather than through official briefings by the department to parliament," Modise warned.
"The force design structure changes but Parliament continues not to be informed. We had hoped this pattern was past, but obviously it is not," she said according to a record of proceedings.
With acknowledgements to Sapa and News24.