Commission defends Sisulu on bill

2010-09-09 21:04

Cape Town - The interim National Defence Force service commission on Thursday said it hoped to complete its report on conditions in the military, which has triggered a battle between Parliament and the executive, by year's end.

The commission said the "public concerns and misunderstandings" over its findings had made it aware of the urgency of delivering a final report.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Parliament's ANC-dominated portfolio committee on defence have for months been at loggerheads over her refusal to release the commission's two interim reports.

This saw MPs take the unprecedented step last month of refusing to process the defence amendment bill until Sisulu supplied them with documents.

It gave the Cabinet 30 days to release the reports.

They were brought to heel by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu - the minister's brother - who last week told committee chairperson Nyami Booi that the committee did not have the power to set timeframes for the executive.

The committee had argued it needed insight into the interim commission's recommendations on setting up a permanent service commission for the military, which the bill aims to do.

In its statement on Thursday, the interim commission, headed by retired judge Lebotsang Bosielo, backed the minister's stance that the report had no bearing on the decision to set up a permanent body.

Therefore MPs need not fear they would be legislating in the dark.


Bosielo sought to draw a fine distinction between the commission's input and the actual, pre-existing decision to establish a permanent commission.

"The interim commission regrets the general misconception that the interim report... has a direct bearing on the decision to draft a bill for the special dispensation of the permanent commission."

He conceded that the commission's mandate included working on the development of the bill.

"He however refuted a statement by Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier that the second interim report by the commission submitted to Sisulu in December 2009 focused on this.

The document reportedly painted a damning picture of service conditions in the military, and Sisulu's refusal to release it has drawn accusations of a cover-up.

In the meanwhile, the minister is heading for another stand-off with Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi on Wednesday expressed exasperation at the difficulty of getting the minister and senior officials to appear before the committee to discuss the department's 2008/09 annual report.