Public must wait for 'scathing' defence report
Pretoria - A "scathing" report into the state of the military will not be made public for now, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Thursday.
The interim national defence force service commission report would first have to pass through proper parliamentary processes, she told reporters in Pretoria.
"Will I release the report... I would have wanted to say yes. We are unable to release the report until proper processes with the Speaker have been concluded," Sisulu said.
"However, I will be interacting with the portfolio committee (the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence) and I will urge them to make this public because I think it is in the best interests of the country."
Sisulu said the report was the first comprehensive review of the defence force in 16 years.
"It offers us very good insight into what is working and what is not working," she said.
"They generally make quite a number of scathing remarks, but then overall they say we believe significant changes have been made since November 2009."
Sisulu did read out some of the report's recommendations later in the news conference, saying it was "in the interests of transparency" to do so.
"The main finding in the report is that process of integration and transformation remains a serious challenge," she said.
"What we should deal with is the rearrangement of the organisation structure, culture, ideology and ranking in the defence force."
Outflow of expertise
Sisulu said there had been a significant reduction of the percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) spent on the defence force.
"We suggest that perhaps we should adhere to the 2% of the GDP as the necessary budget to deal with some of the issues that come out in the report."
A major concern raised in the report was the outflow of expertise from the defence force in the past years, the minister said.
"There must be an immediate intervention to ensure that the self worth of the SANDF has been attended to."
The report contained remarks on a "dysfunctional relationship" between the military command and the defence secretariat.
"They suggest perhaps we should look into this matter and make sure there is better synergy between these two," Sisulu said.
The report of the commission - chaired by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Lebotsang Ronnie Bosielo, and including United Democratic Movement leader and retired general Bantu Holomisa, and Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus-- comes amid reports about the shocking state of the defence force.
Last week, the SA Air Force (SAAF) told MPs that there was "inadequate funding" to fly its multi-billion-rand Gripen fighter and Hawk fighter-trainer aircraft.
To save on costs, pilots were training on Pilatus aircraft because these were cheaper to operate than the Hawks.
On its air combat capability, the SAAF said it had planned to fly 950 training hours, but only 715 were achieved.
The day before, MPs heard that one of the reasons the SA Navy submarine SAS Manthatisi had been out of operation for "about three years" was due to a lack of submarine-trained personnel.
Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier, who has been reading out extracts from a leaked copy of the interim report during members' statement time in the National Assembly, has told the House that morale is so low in the SANDF it "could even threaten state security".
Maynier also told MPs the interim report had found that "it is possible that the level of combat readiness in the SANDF is not quite as good as it should be".
"On service conditions, (it) found that salaries of junior members are totally inadequate, and forced them to live in informal settlements far from their places of work, and that the effects of transport costs significantly dilutes their incomes, leading to social, psychological and family crises.
"The salary situation is so poor that some members state that they would rather have their right to vote revoked in lieu of non-payment of personal income tax.
"The housing allowance is regarded with ridicule, at R500 per month, because it cannot serve to cover bond repayments, and members are not able to get bonds through the commercial banks, given their poor salary levels," Maynier said.
In a statement, the defence ministry said the "bad conditions of service" Maynier referred to were lies being spread to discredit the SANDF and its leaders for political gain.
Maynier, who serves on Parliament's defence portfolio committee, has vowed he will not allow the reports' contents to remain hidden.