Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2010-07-26 Reporter: Wyndham Hartley

Sisulu pulls plug on defence indaba ‘sponsors’



Business Day

Date 2010-07-26
Reporter Wyndham Hartley
Web Link


Cape Town ­ Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has pulled the plug on defence industry sponsorship, by ordering that the Department of Defence not accept such gestures anymore.

The sponsorships were from the defence industry to foot the bill for a meeting of the Military Command Council at a luxury KwaZulu-Natal north coast golf estate in exchange for access to senior defence staff.

This follows revelations last week that the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association, at the behest of the department, had called on members to sponsor the week at the Zimbali Golf Estate for at least R20 000 each.

This raised fears of a conflict of interest between military decision makers and the companies potentially in line to supply military hardware to the South African National Defence Force.

Adding to disquiet over the issue was that defence secretary Mpumi Mpofu organised a parallel meeting of the Defence Secretariat Council over the same period at the same venue, resulting in a second request for another R100 000 sponsorship from the defence industry.

A statement by the department said Ms Sisulu had given instructions that the department “should not accept sponsorship from the defence industry for the session”.

“The minister wishes to acknowledge the industry for their support, but felt it inappropriate for the department to accept the gesture.”

Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier said Ms Sisulu “should be complimented” for stopping “sponsorships from the defence industry for the senior military leadership’s ‘work session’ at the ultra-luxury Zimbali Lodge”.

“However, what still needs to be explained is why the defence department did a U-turn on the ‘cash for access’ scandal.”

“The defence department said that sponsorships were a ‘norm across the public and private sector’,” Mr Maynier said.

The defence ministry then said that it was “inappropriate for the department to accept the gesture”.

“The defence department clearly does not get it. The real question here is whether the generals should be conducting a work session at one of the most luxury lodges in our country when ordinary soldiers’ service conditions are so appalling that the interim national defence force service commission is concerned that the morale of soldiers could pose a threat to the security of the state,” Mr Maynier said.

“The ‘cash for access’ scandal also raises some very serious questions about the judgment of the senior military leadership. We cannot have a situation where the generals are meeting at luxury lodges when ordinary soldiers live in squalor in their barracks. This seems to me to be a complete failure of judgment on the part of the senior military leadership,” Mr Maynier said.

He said that Ms Sisulu “should go further and cancel the work session at Zimbali Lodge”.

With acknowledgements to Wyndham Hartley and Business Day.

Mission accomplished.