MPs: No report, no defence bill
Cape Town - The battle between MPs and Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu escalated on Tuesday when they refused to process a defence bill until she reversed a decision not to release interim reports on the state of the military.
Parliament's portfolio commission on defence suspended deliberations on the defence amendment bill until Sisulu gave them insight into the reports of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.
Members agreed that committee chairperson Nyami Booi would write to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to formally request that the reports be produced within 30 days.
Failing this, he could as a last resort compel Cabinet to release the reports.
This comes after Cabinet, Motlanthe and Speaker Max Sisulu endorsed the minister's refusal to release the reportedly damning reports until the commission completed its work.
MPs earlier this month expressed fears that without insight into the reports they would be "legislating blind".
However, the minister said these were misplaced as the reports had no bearing on a bill that sought to set up a permanent service commission for the military, taking it away from the ambit of the Public Service Commission.
The tug-of-war over the reports has continued for months.
Pressure on the minister grew after interim findings by the commission were released to the Sunday Times.
These reportedly warned of poor conditions and dangerously low morale in the military.
Democratic Alliance defence spokesperson David Maynier welcomed Booi's decision to press for the release of the reports, calling it a "defeat" for Sisulu.
"The decision by the portfolio committee will go a long way to roll back the accountability crisis at the department of defence and to ensure that the defence department is properly accountable to Parliament."
Sisulu has confirmed she has acted on interim reports by the commission, notably recommendations on improving salaries in the lower ranks of the military.
She said the commission was expected to conclude its work next month, a year after it was established.