Sisulu stands ground on report
Cape Town - Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Thursday firmly rejected renewed calls by MPs to release reports on conditions in the military, saying she could only do so once it was completed.
One of the reports was leaked to the media and allegedly warned that morale in the military was so low as to pose a threat to national security.
Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier accused Sisulu of a cover-up and said she should be compelled to release the documents, which were compiled by the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.
"I would like to know what's in these reports that the minister would like to keep from us," he charged.
But Sisulu denied any crisis and said once completed, the commission's work would first go to herself, then to the president and Cabinet before it was made available to Parliament.
She irritably told Maynier to stop posturing and "get over it".
"The report Maynier is ranting and raving about is a work in progress... the final report has not been given to me, not to the commander-in-chief, and not to the Cabinet."
She added: "There is no crisis in the defence force. Most members have a salary double what it was last year."
Pressed by reporters later in the day, Sisulu later said she expected the interim commission to complete its work by September, a year after it was appointed by her.
"I set a deadline of September."
She confirmed she had acted on interim reports by the commission, notably recommendations on improving salaries in the lower ranks of the military, which were implemented this month.
"They reviewed the salary situation and we had to act on that. It was urgent."
Bone of contention
The report has been a bone of contention in Parliament's defence portfolio committee for months, and on Thursday chairperson Nyami Booi revealed he had written a letter to Sisulu asking to see it.
Sisulu said she did not receive the letter, sent on July 15.
Booi eventually accepted the minister's reasons for not submitting the report to Parliament, after she said it was not relevant to put draft legislation before the committee.
Sisulu assured MPs that fears that they would be "legislating blind" 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.
"This has no implications for the bill we need to amend now."
She again indicated she wished to see legislation banning soldiers from belonging to labour unions, and told reporters at a later meeting that government was likely to ask the Constitutional Court "to review this".
Sisulu said there was uncertainty as government believed the country's highest court had ruled last year that soldiers should have trade unions, but that it now seemed the ruling was not so clear-cut.