Take part in defence review: Sisulu

2012-04-12 19:04
Pretoria - The country's defence policy has become out-dated and irrelevant, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Thursday.

She was commenting after receiving a draft report from the defence review committee in Pretoria. It would mark the start of a public consultation process, she said.

"The draft is open for comments and proposals and from now on, the committee will be engaging with the broader South African society to draw the best possible consensus on the future defence trajectory."

The defence policy outlines the defence force's objectives, its functions, capabilities and allies, and the mechanisms governing its operations.

"Participation of South Africans will be critical and key stakeholders, including the defence force, partners and communities will be consulted."

Sisulu said the committee was mandated to draft a policy supportive of government priorities and be responsive to the country's developmental requirements.

The previous review, adopted in 1998, was preoccupied with the integration of the statutory and non-statutory armed forces following the negotiated transition of 1994, said Sisulu.

Interaction on social networks

"This review moves significantly beyond the narrow and internal focus of the 1998 one. It unpacks the constitutional mandate, other statutes, South Africa's international obligations and the work government expects the defence force to do," she said.

The orientation and definition of thematic areas had already been dealt with as had the drafting of the consultative part and the review and refinement phase.

A number of consultative events had been lined up, starting with the committee's meeting with the parliamentary committee on April 18.

The report would be accessible on the committee's website and interaction would also take place on the social networks Facebook and Twitter.

Independent review committee chairperson Roelf Meyer said the review would take a new view of the role of the defence force under a new time period.

"We are working from the point of establishing new goals for the national defence force, including tasks flowing from those goals," he said.

Goals set out in the draft include the safeguarding of South Africa and its people by securing borders and prioritising support for the police service.

Purpose not to combat crime


Meyer cautioned that the use of the military in civilian activities, including crime combating, should be kept to a minimum.

"The purpose of the defence force is not to combat crime, that is the function of the police and that line should be kept very clear.

"That's a constructional requirement, and only where there is a dire need for the involvement of the defence forces can the president authorise that," he said.

Sisulu said steps had already been taken to limit defence force involvement in civilian matters.

At the moment, arrangements for military support could be made by provincial police commissioners.

"We are going to ensure that we take it [authority] out of the level of commissioners and ensure that the necessary authority can only be given at the highest level when we deploy armed forces in support of police," she said.

Sisulu said interventions to fight rhino poaching remained heightened, although crime trends had shifted to privately owned reserves where it was "very difficult" to deploy soldiers.

"It is in our national interest to protect the rhinos; we are doing our best along our borders. We are committed to do that," she said.
- SAPA
Read more on:    lindiwe sisulu  |  military
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