Parliament’s defence committee says recommendations by the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) are falling on deaf ears, while soldiers continue to work with unserviceable equipment and under “unacceptable” conditions.
The DFSC briefed a virtual sitting of parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence on Thursday on the recommendations it has made to Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Parliamentarians wanted answers on whether there was a feedback system in place, where the DFSC could track the implementation of recommendations.
Committee members also wanted to know where the department reported on its progress as to the implementation of recommendations.
DFSC commissioner Ian Robertson said the minister acknowledged receipt of the reports on tabled findings and recommendations.
He also said the secretary of defence was required in 2016 to provide quarterly feedback to the DFSC.
However, the feedback process still needed to be revised and enforced, Robertson told the committee.
MPs wanted to establish if Mapisa-Nqakula provided reasons for the non-implementation of DFSC recommendations.
“The DFSC is not able to provide an informed comment on the reasons for non-implementation. All recommendations are submitted to the minister for approval, with the expected implementation by the secretary of defence and SANDF,” Robertson said.
Co-committee chairperson Cyril Xaba said it has become clear that recommendations are piling up.
“This committee has visited naval bases, the Air Force and the Army bases here in Cape Town. There we heard of issues around rank promotions and unfair labour practices. It worries me if these recommendations are ignored. You had meetings with the department and there has been very little responses. If they don’t attach value to what you are doing, why are you here?” Xaba said.
“What you are submitting is falling on deaf ears. Procurement and budget are a real problem,” he added.
DA MP Dennis Ryder concurred with Xaba.
“The frustration is palpable. The recommendations are being ignored and they only acknowledge receipt of it. Why is this commission not taken seriously? There are morale issues. The department should come here and tell us if they take this commission seriously,” Ryder said.
Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla said the unsatisfactory performance around the implementation of the commission’s recommendations may be due to the stretched resources of the department.
“Issues around remuneration, conditions of service… that is a syndrome which is unavoidable. For the last two decades, the defence budget has been on a downward spiral. There is no way that the syndrome of derelict infrastructure and [poor] conditions that impact the level of morale would not arise. I am encouraged by what has been said in relation to us improving the situation,” he said.
ANC MP Thabo Mmutle said the defence ministry should explain why these recommendations were not implemented.
“If the minister does not agree with the recommendations, then she must come here and tell us why she does not agree with the DFSC. We should be treating this commission like an ombudsman,” he said.