ISS Seminar Report: The South African Defence Review 2012 - Consultative and Informative Public Meeting


Note: ISS Seminars are nominally run under ‘ISS rules’ to allow for freedom of expression. In this instance, due to the nature of the event remarks are attributed to the first two presenters but not during the discussion component.


The conference commenced with the chair, Dr Jakkie Cilliers, greeting participants and thanking the Defence Review Committee (DRC) for the opportunity to host and contribute to this important process. He acknowledged the immense amount of work that went into the creation of the draft 2012 South African Defence Review (DR).

Mr. Roelf Meyer, chairperson of the DRC, proceeded to contextualise the DR and current consultation period by explaining the history of the review. The process was characterised as long overdue, particularly given the significant changes in the defence environment that have occurred since the previous DR.

Mr. Nick Sendall then presented a strategic overview of the draft DR, noting that the DRC had been tasked to reflect on the following critical questions:

Mr. Sendall reviewed the key deliverables and approaches, stating that the DR did not limit itself to high-level policy and strategy matters. It also addresses and focuses its attention on matters of defence doctrine, defence capabilities, defence structural arrangements, and accounting for resources provided. In the short term, it provides a robust platform for the Minister to argue the defence case. In the longer term, it provides a twenty- to thirty-year defence vision at the levels of policy, high-level doctrine, strategy and structure. Moreover, the requirement exists for intermediate evaluation and revision every five years. Mr. Sendall proceeded to outline the overarching defence principles upon which the DR was predicated:

Principle 1: The SANDF will strive to be seen as a representative and trusted non-partisan national asset. The SANDF will be respected by the people of South Africa and the international community for the standard of military professionalism it cultivated and maintained.

Principle 2: The SANDF will adhere to sound civil control and robust legislative oversight. The SANDF will be fully compliant with national and international law, and specifically international humanitarian law, national policy and regulatory frameworks. Due recognition will be given to the unique nature of the SANDF relative to the public service.

Principle 3: The SANDF will strategically adopt a defensive posture but maintain offensive operational capabilities. The defence mandate, mission, goals and tasks were to be focused on the attainment of national strategic effects. The resource allocations to Defence will therefore to be quantified to ensure that the appropriate combat readiness, mission levels and contingencies requirements were sustained.

Principle 4: The SANDF will be maintained as a balanced modern, flexible, technologically advanced force supported by a singular overarching information technology infrastructure. The SANDF will be appropriately equipped to execute successful operations across the spectrum of conflict. The SANDF will be multi-role trained with all capabilities embedded with firepower, protection, manoeuvre, sustainment and intelligence.

Principle 5: Leadership and professionalism will be the cornerstone of strategic, operational and tactical success. SANDF members will be skilled, healthy, fit, and highly disciplined professionals imbued with a high level of morale and sense of duty. Similarly, exemplary, competent, ethical and dynamic leaders will lead them. The leadership philosophy will be that of Mission Command.

Principle 6: The SANDF will be organised into combat formations and there will be a clear distinction between command and staff functions. Command lines will be clear and unambiguous. Commanders will have the required delegations and be held accountable and responsible for and have commensurate authority over all resources allocated for the execution of their assigned mandates.

Principle 7: The SANDF, as an important pillar of the South African state, will contribute to national development primarily by creating the security conditions necessary for development to take place, and secondly through specific interventions as may be required from time to time to meet national priorities. The SANDF will be the provider of last resort during times of national disaster, national emergency or civil turbulence.

Mr. Sendall then discussed the thematic areas of the review, summarising each chapter of the document.

Chapter 1 focused on the mandate given to the DRC, the requirement for a new DR and the role of Defence Policy in the national policy framework. In addition it discussed the fundamental principles underpinning the DR 2012.

Chapter 2 provided an understanding of the South African state, its people, its political, economic and legal systems and geography. This chapter posited the unique challenges facing South Africa as a democratic developmental state, which include poverty, income inequality, unemployment, education and crime. The chapter finally examined the role that defence can play in a developmental state.

Chapter 3 provided an understanding of the global, continental, regional and domestic security environments and some of the implications thereof for South Africa. Moreover, it articulated the future strategic environment, vis-a-vis the ‘African Battle Space’ and posited conclusions for defence in relation to this security environment.

Chapter 4 unpacked contemporary defence expenditure at the global, African and sub-regional levels. South African defence spending is analysed over a fifty-year period. Implications are indicated in terms of defence capabilities, defence readiness, personnel, operating and capital allocations. Finally, conclusions are given in relation to defence budgeting.

Chapter 5 discussed the emergent national security strategy, which was expressed as a construct and posited South Africa’s national interests. The South African National Security Construct was articulated and the specific defence contribution thereto was expressed, especially in terms of the determination of national interests and the determination of the national security ambition. The chapter culminated in five strategic national security effects to be pursued by all forms of national power in South Africa.

Chapter 6 identified and unpacked the defence mandate emanating from the Constitution and other statutes into a defence mission, five strategic goals and 15 high-level defence tasks. Each task was expressed in terms of its defence effect, which was a paradigm shift from a threat-based approach to defence policy and strategy to an approach that was based on desired defence effects.

Chapter 7 illustrated the future spectrum of conflict and the future conflict geographies identified. These included the landward sphere, maritime sphere, aeronautic sphere, space sphere and information sphere. A range of future defence contingencies were identified that included inter-state contingencies and intra-state contingencies. The chapter also discussed the determination of key defence concepts and the identification of key defence capability sets.

In chapter 8, the DR’s adoption of an effects-based approach allowed for South Africa’s ‘scale of defence effort’ to be postulated. The defence mandate, mission, strategic goals and tasks were systematically unpacked to determine the scale of the defence effort required for each and the concomitant defence capability requirements. This scale of effort remains the fundamental basis for the development of the FD. Many countries described the scale of defence effort as the ‘level of defence ambition’.

Chapter 9 posited the level of effort required for South Africa to meet these strategic goals and high-level tasks and identified the required core defence capabilities. This allowed for comprehensive guidelines to be posited for the defence FD. The chapter also focused on high-level force design (FD) requirements for the SA Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy, SA Military Health Service and the SA Special Forces. Furthermore, it outlined the requirement for a blueprint FD and force structure (FS) to be developed by the CSANDF.

In chapter 10, the future defence organisation was posited, ranging from the key tenets for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the repositioning of the Defence Secretariat within the Ministry. This chapter also focused on the pronouncement on Civil Control and the Defence Organisation, with particular emphasis on the President as ‘Commander-in-Chief’, civil control as exercised by the Minister of Defence, parliamentary oversight and a specific proposal on the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Head Quarter, specific ‘Defence Accountability Arrangements’, the introduction of a uniform command and staff system, and the realignment of the SANDF into combat formations. Importantly, the establishment of a comprehensive Defence Service Commission and a Defence Ombudsperson was proposed to provide comprehensively for defence personnel outside the general public service. This chapter also proposed the establishment of a Defence Materiel Organisation, an Independent Tender Board, a Defence Estates Agency, a Defence Heritage Agency and a revised Reserve Force Council. The chapter concluded by focusing on bringing Denel closer to the SANDF.

In chapter 11, a number of important and key interventions were posited, based on the observations of the DRC during its diagnostic and orientation process. These interventions included an integrated defence information system; defence service commission; defence ombudsperson; military leadership; the reserve component; defence training; defence discipline; defence organisational structuring; defence organisational performance; and the health of the force.

Chapter 12 discussed the proposal of high-level strategies for defence resources regarding combat service support doctrine; defence personnel management; defence logistics management; defence information management; defence financial management; defence facilities footprint; and defence environmental management.

Chapter 13 detailed the fundamentals for future defence and procurement strategies. It identified the focus areas and strategic and niche areas and discussed the future positioning of the defence industry.

The second session commenced with comments by respondent Major General (retired) Len Le Roux on behalf of the ISS.

The process

Regarding the process, the respondent argued that it was a pity that public consultation came so late in the process. He said that civil society would have preferred up-front consultations to assist in identifying the issues that needed to be addressed. He expressed his hope that this consultation would be seen as the start of the public consultation process and that sufficient opportunity would be provided for in-depth studies of the draft, debate and participation.

Policy framework

Gen. le Roux said that the major issue that he had identified in studying the draft was that of the basic logic of the resulting policy framework. He understood that the draft itself stated clearly that it would not address FD or FS. This and budgetary issues would be addressed in a later process. This presents a problem as the draft claims to present defence policy that is supportive of Government’s priorities and strategic intent and this is not possible without a clear understanding of the budgetary implications of such policy. Policy must be implementable to be of any value and implementable policy has a price tag. The draft refers to the ends, ways and means logic in policy and arrives at a capabilities statement, but this without cost. He said that the Chairperson, in his briefing at the launch of the DR process, had stated that that the draft would express on capabilities within budgetary limits. However, this was missing in the current draft. There is no indication of the annual budgetary cost of the stated capabilities in the draft. These capabilities are stated to be a 30-year future vision but no priorities for short- to medium-term force development are provided for in the draft. This means that the draft does not address the current dilemma of the SANDF, namely that of a gross mismatch between defence policy (as it is being practised) and defence funding. This policy draft therefore does not serve to solve the SANDF’s short-term problems.

Gen. le Roux went on to argue that the process for development of the draft policy is presented as a ‘mandate-driven approach’ and that fiscal considerations were not taken into account. This is very unrealistic as a mandate that is unaffordable is little more than a pipe dream. It would be far better to talk of a ‘mandate-driven but cost-constrained approach’ to policy development as this will result in implementable policy and an affordable and sustainable FD (capability statement) and FS.

Priorities and options

Gen. le Roux then said that security was all about risk avoidance, alleviation and combating and that as such a risk analysis should be included in security policy. Only in this way can the various tasks that can be deduced from the defence mandate of the SANDF be prioritised and options generated. He argued that policy decisions should be based on a clear understanding of the associated risks, suggested priorities and alternative options. The current draft did not provide such a basis for policy decisions. The draft itself states in chapter 1, page 43, paragraph 28b that ‘Affordability, likewise, can only be measured relative to both a specified affordability baseline (the known defence allocation) and the level of defence ambition. The highest level expression of balance is thus the balance between South Africa’s national interests and ambitions, the defence capabilities required to support these and consequent alignment of the defence allocation.’ Despite this statement, the associated logic seems to be absent in the draft. In his opinion there is no such thing as 100% security and policy makers should thus be made aware of the implications of their decisions as regards both risk and cost. The draft falls short of this.

Defence capabilities and level of defence effort

The draft arrives at a statement of required defence capabilities and the level of defence effort in chapters 7 and 8. These are stated to be the vision for thirty years in the future. This is actually presented in the form of a broad FD. There is, however, no clear indication in the draft as to the logic for this particular level of defence. The stated requirement for 1 mechanised division, 1 motorised division, 1 squadron multi-role fighters and 2 conventional submarines, for example, is not explained in the document. It could easily be asked why these levels cannot be halved or doubled.

The statement of a 30-year vision FD is in itself problematic. In the previous chapters the draft refers to the issues of unpredictability and fluidity in the environment. The simple fact that this policy update is necessary due to major changes in the strategic environment over the past 14 years (since the approval of the previous DR), and the practise of doing a DR every 4 years in most modern democracies, demonstrate the inadvisability of such an approach. To define the SANDF for 30 years into the future and then to follow a set ‘growth path’ to achieve this vision seems problematic. Gen. le Roux argued that an approach based on short- and medium-term requirements parallel to a vision FD would allow for better flexibility and adaptation as the strategic environment changed.

Defence posture: collaborative defence and security

Gen. le Roux then argued that one of the major changes in the strategic environment since 1998 was the development of the new African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). At continental level this includes the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), the Common African Defence and Security Policy, the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), the African Standby Force (ASF) and at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) level the Organ on Politics Defence and Security, the Mutual Defence Pact and the Regional Standby Brigade (RSB). These are all well argued in the draft, as is the importance of Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs) and defence diplomacy. The draft commits South Africa to multi-lateral defence options and restates the SA defence strategy of (i) co-operation, (ii) prevention and (iii) use of force as a last option, as defined in the 1996 White Paper on Defence. Despite this, the draft appears to fall back on the previous concepts of a primary function of the SANDF being defence against external aggression and the need for deterrence based on own capabilities. Paragraph 16 on page 127 states: ‘South Africa must be able to defend itself autonomously without having to rely on another country. The Defence Force will be maintained as a formidable fighting force that can decisively and successfully defend South Africa’s land, air, sea and cyber spaces, vital interests and strategic lines of communication.’ This seems to be in contradiction to the previous arguments in this paragraph. It is submitted that the primary function of the SANDF should be redefined to align it with the concepts of collaborative defence and security. The primary function of the SANDF should be to serve as an instrument for conflict prevention and conflict intervention in the hands of Government.

Looking at the logic of FD and developments in many European and other countries such as Canada and Australia, there seems to be an approach to allow for two drivers; namely an expeditionary force and a homeland protection force. This seems to follow the logic of conflict prevention, management and intervention (under international mandate) as priority tasks for modern defence forces.

Confidence-building defence

The 1998 DR presented an FD based on these principles of confidence-building or non-provocative defence. It argued in paragraph 72 of Chapter 8 that ‘this option involves major deviations from present capabilities and doctrine, and will require more study before it can be recommended. If future tendencies are in this direction, Option 1 will be an acceptable base for such development.’ Gen. le Roux also stated that there was no evidence that the DRC considered this concept in its deliberations.

Confidence and security-building measures

These are discussed in Chapter 6 on page 150 in paragraph 90. Gen. le Roux said that he missed references to a regional arms register (AU and SADC) in this discussion.

Civil control

The speaker said that he agreed with the new approach to the placement of the Defence Secretariat inside the MoD, but questioned the placement of the Defence Inspectorate. He said that for the Minister to be able to execute effective civil control it was necessary to provide the MoD with an effective monitoring capability and this was the role of the Inspectorate. The CSANDF could provide for an own internal inspection function for internal monitoring and control purposes.

SANDF contribution to the developmental agenda

Gen. le Roux said that he welcomed this approach, as he did not believe that developing countries could afford defence forces that had no peacetime utility for internal development. However, he warned of the danger of ‘mission creep’ and advised that this should be closely monitored. He also said that where such contributions were outside the ambit of the collateral utility of the SANDF, they had to be additionally funded so as not to deplete defence resources.


According to Gen. le Roux he found little if any reference in the draft to efficiency improvement measures. He stated that where funding was limited, the first obligation of the MoD and SANDF decision makers must be to ensure maximum efficiency within current programmes. He doubted that this was the case currently and mentioned the poor ‘tooth-to-tail’ ration of the SANDF/DoD as an example to be addressed.


The intended use of the Reserve in the future appeared uncertain. Were they to be used purely as a conventional reserve or was some form of territorial Reserve also envisaged? He argued for the reinstatement of the concept of territorial reserves as this provided the SANDF with great flexibility in the execution of its peacetime tasks as well as in supporting the SA developmental agenda.

The VVIP issue

Gen. le Roux said that he was unable to find any reference to the concept of VVIPs (Very Very Important Persons) anywhere other than in SA Governmental literature. He was concerned about the unaffordable strain it could place on state coffers. Too many SA officials claimed and were afforded this preferential status. He expressed his particular concern with the statement that ‘the short term focus (for the SAAF) must be on increasing its VVIP capability’ on page 234 in paragraph 22 and the statement that the migration priority for the South African Air Force (SAAF) will be ‘meeting the full requirement for VIP transport’. He said that this was contradictory to the ‘mandate-driven approach’ that the draft DR claims to have taken.

Contingency budgets

The speaker expressed his concern with the concept of a contingency budget within the SANDF budget. He expressed his conviction that the Treasury should hold all contingency funds for the State.

Peace missions

The White Paper on Peace Missions was referenced and Gen. le Roux expressed his concern that provisions regarding the responsibilities of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury were not always adhered to. He asked whether this white paper would be reviewed in line with the new defence policy in development.

Defence industry

Gen. le Roux noted that he had encountered much interest in defence industry cooperation during his travels in Africa. He was of the view that African militaries were looking at South Africa to take the lead on such cooperation. This was also evident in the pronouncements of the SADC Mutual Defence Pact. However, he missed any reference to such an approach in the draft DR.

The Third Session

Roundtable discussion and flagging of issues for unpacking

Participants noted that the DR was occurring alongside reviews that had a foreign policy and intelligence content, which necessitated greater contextualisation within the DR. It was further queried whether agenda setting remained a subject for deliberation.

Role of defence in developmental state

Participants sought to unpack this role, as it is boldly asserted in the document. Does the SANDF, as an instrument of state, which has as its core the use of legal force, have a role to play in the developmental agenda and should it utilise its capacity in peacetime?

Participants noted the emphasis placed upon the notion of the developmental state, which also raised the implicit question of the role that South Africa was fulfilling and what it aspired to be – an aspiring middle power or regional military power. It was noted that there was a lack of emphasis regarding discussions of defence diplomacy, the use of coercive diplomacy and the links between them.

Regarding the role of the SANDF, participants noted that this review could be seen as an opportunity to decide upon the relationship between the SANDF and society. It was argued that if a former SANDF member re-joined society both prepared and able to participate, the perception of the SANDF as being parasitic would be reduced.

The manner in which the SANDF made it case for increasing its stake in the budget was questioned. The efforts in the document to link core mandate activities to development was seen as one way, despite the fact that the troops could have functions in the SANDF that were insufficient for broader systematic societal development processes. Participants also flagged the unclear usage of the term ‘developmental peacekeeping’ in the document on pg. 154, paragraph 102. Such a term was seen as an aberration in peacekeeping and development and could not be included successfully without creating confusion.

Participants commented on the proposed creation of the Defence Materiel Group and the position of Denel in the acquisition process. In addition, the definition of a South African-based company could arguably exclude some companies that might otherwise be included within the definition.

What informs the document?

While participants felt that the DR admirably unpacked and discussed the strategic and contextual environment, it was argued that this was very global and not South African focused or specific. This raised the question of the perceived role of South Africa and therefore the SANDF in the global community. The long-term vision approach of the document negated the provision of clarity on the more immediate realities and the positioning of the SANDF to be able to play its role in the short  to medium term.

On the issue of support to the South African developmental agenda, concern was expressed that this was not sufficiently unpacked. One participant said that ‘development should be left for developmental practitioners’ and that this was not a role for soldiers. There should also be a much clearer role differentiation in the developmental state than that supplied in the draft DR. Furthermore, the possibility of the securitisation of development, whereby all issues might be represented as security issues, was cautioned against.

The issue of cost constraint informing the document was again discussed and it was noted that if any policy document was not informed by financial constraints and considered possible treasury reaction then it was likely to become irrelevant. A purely mandate-driven approach was questioned, given that the mandate was broadly interpreted. Instead, the review should rather examine what the SANDF is for and how likely it is to be employed in the short to medium term – including how it needs to contribute to regional peace support operations in collaboration with partners.

Civil control and oversight

Issues around civil control and defence oversight were highlighted, as these had arisen in part due to frustrated previous efforts at clarification and institutionalisation.

The idea of a non-partisan, professional military as referred to in the document was a departure from the present situation. In addition, participants expressed concern that the developmental state had been used as a code or blanket term that in fact obfuscated serious cleavages in ideology and practice within the South African political system. The debate around the use and management of the SANDF would therefore remain ideological and it was queried whether there would be a Liberationist or Liberal Democratic approach given that they had significantly different approaches to management.

Participants proceeded to note that the forthcoming African National Congress (ANC) conference in Mangaung was unlikely to discuss Defence Policy under current circumstances, yet the review proposed substantial changes from the direction embarked upon in the 1990s. Whilet Peace and Security, Police and Justice have received mention in ANC discussion documents, there have been no mention of Defence, arguably a political tactic on the part of the MoD to retain control of the debate.

Positive comments were made regarding the document’s support for mission command, yet presently there was far too much centralisation of decision-making. A palpable fear of taking decisions was evident at lower levels and this was prevalent throughout the SANDF. Overcoming this problem requires more than just a number of references in the review. This was further linked to a contemporary reluctance to assume responsibility within the SANDF, which effectively amounts to a decision-making apoplexy. The importance of incorporating ‘mission command’ within the SANDF was emphasised.

Participants expressed some concern at the idea that the CSANDF’s role would expand to include duties and responsibilities as the Head of Department and Accounting Officer. It was argued that the CSANDF would be relieved of a great deal of unnecessary decision-making if the Secretary for Defence continued to execute these responsibilities. 

A clear definition of Civil Control was subsequently sought, with discussions eventually agreeing that this largely meant financial control and the Defence Secretary acting as an agency of Parliament. The principle of financial control does not mean that they must oversee the conduct of the CSANDF, but rather how the CSANDF allocates and spends the budget.

The term ‘civil oversight’ was taken to mean control by the civis, i.e. government authority, and overseen and directed by the government of the day, the President as Commander in Chief, the appointed Defence Minister and parliamentary control.

Participants also recommended the maintenance of a civilian and policy advice function within the secretariat. In the past military intelligence had provided such advice, yet it had lacked the sophisticated political knowledge necessary to advise the Minister, the SANDF, the President and Parliament. This lack of advice remained a gap in the SANDF and participants proceeded to raise the question of importing temporary Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) officials to distribute good advice on policy and on financial control. This would consequently relieve the CSANDF and SANDF commanders of the burden of financial matters, as this is a matter in which few possess the necessary knowledge and training.

The second aspect regarding civil control pertains to civic education. While mentioned in the DR, participants noted that in the past high-ranking officers and members of the secretariat had been reluctant to engage in these activities. This should receive more prominence in the review. Participants further noted that casual references to civic education were made, whereas it was a responsibility that needed to be reviewed in greater detail. Moreover, the Military Academy’s institutional role was threatened as it was reduced from an institution with professional officers providing broad civic education, to something that resembled a training institute within the SANDF.

Participants queried whether a military office was to be established in the Presidency based on the constitutional duties of the President as Commander-in-Chief, to which others expressed reservations due to current political interference in security issues.

When questioned why the position of the Department of Veterans Affairs was not discussed in the document, the Review group responded that it was a separate department. Therefore the DR focuses solely on defence given the long-term focus, from which such a department would be absent, in the document.

Participants proceeded to discuss the rationalisation of parliamentary committees. Critical discussion ensued on the model used by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI), as this would likely require a review to ensure that potential debate was not stifled. At present members are subject to a party caucus and therefore mitigating options need to be explored. These included proposals that the appointed chairperson did not come from the ruling party, as well as a rotating chairpersonship so as to increase public confidence in the procedure.

Peace support operations

Discussants proceeded to analyse the problems encountered in peace support operations, particularly when it concerned contingent owned equipment. While South Africa remains one of the few countries to deploy with its own equipment, it has nevertheless lost millions in reimbursement because of the absence of capacity and will to satisfactorily maintain equipment.

The example of Ghana was discussed, where funding from peace support operations contributes to its defence budget and Ghanaian deployments are effectively reimbursed. This was cited as a major factor for the lack of coups in Ghana, as well as the increasing professionalisation of its officers and troops. Participants recommended that the SANDF research comparative reimbursement programmes.

Participants identified a number of reasons that accounted for the failure to secure reimbursement. These were, firstly, the neglect of the SANDF’s capacity and capabilities to maintain and service equipment for operations. Sending troops can result in UN reimbursement, but this presupposes that the deployed troops are both effective and efficient. Consequently, it was recommended that focusing on first-line maintenance should be recognised as a crucial responsibility during deployments.

Participants expressed concern that while the SANDF was deployed for secondary functions, only the primary function remained fully funded. The reinstatement of tasks such as border control and anti-poaching patrols to the SANDF also required appropriate funding.

Given the fundamental nature of military intervention, the DR requires greater explication and clarity on this issue. Moreover, these matters must be related back to the debate on collaborative security, particularly regarding the ASPA.

Reference was made to cases of intervention in dire circumstances, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. It was noted that such guiding instruments as the charters and constitutive acts of the United Nations, AU and SADC, in addition to continental and regional protocols and pacts, provided the document’s orientation, as well as point of departure. Intervention would, therefore, take place in accordance with these requirements. However, it was also noted that in the future there could be circumstances and events that would merit and require urgent intervention.

Despite the document’s orientation and focus on expeditionary capability, the document does not satisfactorily address requirements for an expeditionary-type force. While it was acknowledged that the image of expeditionary was a sensitive matter given South Africa’s historical role, an expeditionary focus was nevertheless one option to assist bringing peace and security to unstable situations.

Defence industry

A more Africa-focused approach by the defence industry was seen as an important method of contributing to building regional peace and security and advancing the concepts of collaborative security. The importance of research, development, test and evaluation within the SANDF and the defence industry was also noted. It was argued that the defence industry should closely align itself with SANDF needs in this regard. The industry could contribute to technical training within the SANDF as well as in supplying training and work opportunities for ex-SANDF members who are retrenched from the SANDF.

Participants noted that the DR implied additional government responsibilities, given that any country with a strong defence industry was one where the government played a large role. Moreover, defence exports are foremost a foreign policy matter, since arms sales to a country is perceived as a vote of confidence in that country.

Participants sought to identify the major impacts upon the defence industry and identify the key local products to develop and source. Ensuring that the industry focuses on efficient and cost-effective procurement is also a concern of the DR. In addition, it was argued that more engagement would be required from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), DIRCO and the Cabinet Security Cluster.

One suggestion for benefitting the SANDF and society was to procure equipment offsets and close the skills gap through training and education, as the SANDF was ideally situated within South Africa’s development-security nexus. Participants also explored support for long-term possibilities of strategic research through the inclusion of part of the CSIR in addition to the SANDF, Armscor and Denel.

The Defence Inspectorate

One of the major changes in the DR involved the moving of the Defence Inspectorate from the secretariat to the SANDF. It was argued that the Defence Inspectorate belonged in the Secretariat rather than in the SANDF, as it principally served the Minister in exercising effective control over the SANDF. As every level of an organisation should have an internal audit capacity, both an internal audit and IG function should also be established in the SANDF. Given that the Minister requires monitoring of the execution of policies, plans and finances, an audit function alone, as recommended in the review, can only serve him/her in regards to finances.

Staffing and human resource issues

Participants noted that the SANDF had an affordability problem and that full-time professional soldiers were costly. Participants proceeded to critically discuss the idea of a ‘voluntary’ national service that could reduce the defence personnel bill, feed the reserve force and moderately reduce South Africa’s unemployment figures. In addition participants critically discussed the inadequacies of the Military Skills Development System (MSDS).

While aiming for a smaller professional defence force, government clearly lacked the political will to enforce an exit mechanism. The retention of a professional defence force requires performance assessment and rigorous training. The current system produces a bottleneck effect at the top of the SANDF, stifling promotions among lower ranks and leading to dissatisfaction. It was proposed that this could be rectified by a proper flow-through system. This was identified as one of the reasons why so many graduates of the MSDS are retained, and as the cause of the ballooning of the HR budget.

The sensitive issue of altering the ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio was identified. Readers of the DR have the right to ask how the SANDF requests additional funding while maintaining a larger management component than is necessary. Furthermore, there was recognition in the document that a high proportion of personnel did not meet their post profiles. In this regard, threshold innovations for exit to take place were seen as  useful, which linked to issues of education for civilian life and possible employment in private security companies. Greater efficiency and effectiveness would be required as part of a massive process of right-sizing the DoD.

It was also noted that the review proposed a comprehensive review of the military disciplinary system, including the introduction of a military ombudsperson, as well as the decoupling of rank and pay. The latter would correct a system that was based on the principle that retaining qualified people necessitated their promotion so as to offer them an increased salary. Some participants expressed reservations about these steps. In order to still access recruits, it was proposed that the intake system be aimed to feed the reserve component. After training, recruits would form a pool from which they could be selected and invited to participate in the regular component.

Regarding the role and relationship with private security and military companies (PSMC), participants noted thatclarification was required on how best to prevent the loss of personnel to such companies. In addition, clarification was required regarding the definitions and consistency of terms applied in the DR (where corporations and companies have been used interchangeably).

Roles and responsibilities

Participants questioned whether the SANDF should own all capabilities or whether outsourcing would be advantageous on occasion and factored into the debate on collaborative security. An option discussed was the creation of regional centres of expertise, provided on a broad basis, so that all regional defence forces can provide services to one another. Other participants argued that a lack of capacity in neighbouring countries and on the continent might scupper this proposal. In addition, outsourcing could be an unviable option during crises as such equipment might not be readily available. 

Roles and mission

Participants cautioned that while the document was visionary and expansive, it was also likely to be prohibitively expensive and would therefore not receive the necessary support from treasury and stakeholders. Fundamentally this requires a prioritisation in the goals and tasks set out in the DR. Clarifying the logic and order of prioritisation would also assist future career and training models, which are fundamental for effective HR planning and budgeting.

This leaves open the question of future operations, as the DoD must not be perceived as planning or ‘fighting the last war’. The DR needs greater focus on the immediate and near term priorities such as peacekeeping operations, border control and support to the police. Given the importance of the issue of collaborative defence within the APSA, more attention should be given to future operations. It was also suggested that the final DR be written in a language understandable to the general public. The 1996 White Paper was mentioned as a good example.

Contingency budget

Participants argued that the use of the term ‘contingency budget’ in the DR had contributed to confusion and resulted in a number of varying interpretations from what the DRC had intended. Moreover, while the term contingency was applicable and existed for those operations for which the budget was insufficient, it was argued that this was not tantamount to a scenario in which the SANDF could simply access money. Rather, funds would be applied for with the Treasury if so required and granted or refused based on a case-by-case analysis.  Participants were informed that the 1998 White Paper on Peace Missions was undergoing a review, a process that also involved DIRCO, as the optimum outcome would be a close alignment of the two documents.


Participants noted that the issue of gender had not received much attention or mention in the DR, as well as in the day’s discussions. It was recommended that the process of consultation should be expanded so as to include a specific gender consultation session or event that would generate further insights and therefore improve the document.

Response of the DRC

A member of the DRC was nominated to respond to the discussions and issues. The respondent stated that while drafting the document, the committee faced the dilemma of where to begin. This was accomplished by reflecting on the key questions from the start, namely identifying the salient points, as well as irrelevant topics and the identity of the target audience. The document had been written primarily as a policy document, detailing government expectations of the SANDF, and secondarily as a guide for the SANDF.

While writing a policy document was fairly simple, the need to engage with issues of strategy and doctrine remained complex, requiring the systematic consideration and drafting of ideas that addressed and jumped between various levels.

The external environment within which South Africans are situated also informs the document. This did not, however, reduce the consideration of the domestic environment. In addition it was written while noting that government/ administration focus and priority may change – on the basis there have been changes in South Africa administrations – for instance the differing levels of effort and focus on Africa. The issue of national security had been articulated in careful engagement and consultation with DIRCO.

The experience of European countries was discussed, as comprehensive DRs had often been conducted there, but changing political and economic dynamics necessitated urgent revisions and resulted in budget cuts. In view of the fact that current political and economic realities could change the political environment in a short space of time, it was asked how a long-term projection could be created. Therefore a prudent examination was recommended that determined what the SANDF was mandated to do and the necessary level of energy and expenditure for compliance with the mandate – if this could not be funded, then it could be necessary to re-examine what should be changed or suspended in the mandate.

Turning to the issue of collaborative defence, the DRC argued that contemporary economic unity was not sufficiently equated to political unity in the region. Countries continue to have differing security concerns and faced numerous difficulties in the creation and institutionalisation of security communities. Security and defence therefore continue to be regarded as too important to be totally abrogated, with states retaining some capability to defend themselves.

The peace support and expeditionary focus issues were discussed next. The SANDF had previously organised itself as though it were a private company, therefore this was changed back to a military focus, which would in turn bring focus back to its primary task in terms of training, structuring and equipping. This would tie into the issue of collaborative defence while still retaining the capability of defence.

When linking this to issues in HR and staffing, the ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio remains a sensitive issue that will have to be addressed politically. Furthermore, the respondent commented on the Military Academy, which was recognised as a major challenge, but whose identity and purpose needed clarification.

In regards to civil control and oversight the review seeks to strengthen oversight by capacitating the Minister, but increases the accountability of the CSANDF. These changes would occur simultaneously alongside the revision of the military disciplinary and justice system, which has arguably failed and is directly impacting discipline and consequently operational efficiency.

The DRC respondent acknowledged that the SANDF’s developmental role required additional explication. While development would not become securitised, the lack of security affected development. An instrument of state with capabilities should be put to use in the developmental state. This touched upon the developmental status of the country, as the subject of poverty and job creation could not be ignored in the overall environment as they also had security implications. Reaction to this will therefore remain in open debate as Task 13 insufficiently covers the subject at present. This also remains an area that requires future research, as there is a relative dearth of literature and research detailing how such capabilities can or have been put to use by states in their aspiration to develop. Examples are the Brazilian opening up of the Amazon and the role of the French military in driving industry after the Second World War.

The respondent also assured the participants that whether in Defence of the Republic, in defence of vital interests or in grave circumstances – the first consideration was collaborative security. Moreover, it was noted that deterrence spoke of collaborative deterrence in the region through cooperative and mutual defence pacts. Therefore an extremely important part of setting the strategic agenda as well as prevention and deterrence was the APSA, in which defence posture was cooperative and collaborative and unilateral action was a last resort.

In regards to gender issues a specific consultation event was proposed. While gender is not addressed as a subject as the document aims to speak to policy that is gender neutral, and as such a specific public participation would result in important insights and outcomes.


The conference concluded by noting that while the DR could come across as a manual to fix the DoD, it was nevertheless a massive and necessary task, and the reader could apprehend the challenges and complexities of the task at hand. It was argued that the DR was visionary, which had the advantage of aspiring towards the ideal and was not limited and narrow. Indeed, it acknowledged that aspirations could not be fulfilled in the short term. A renewed defence and security debate is required, as it is hugely important that these discussions be taken out of a closed circle on an on-going basis.

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

ANC                African National Congress

APSA              African Peace and Security Architecture

ARMSCOR     Armaments Corporation of South Africa

ASF                African Standby Force

AU                  African Union

AUPSC           African Union Peace and Security Council

CSANDF         Chief of the South African National Defence Force

CEWS             Continental Early Warning System

CSBM             Confidence and Security Building Measures

CSIR               Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

DIRCO            Department of International Relations and Cooperation

DoD                Department of Defence

DR                  Defence Review

DRC               Defence Review Committee

DSR               Department of Science and Technology

DTI                 Department of Trade and Industry           

FD                  Force Design 

FS                  Force Structure

IG                   Inspector General

JSCI               Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence

MoD                Ministry of Defence

MSDS             Military Skills Development System

PSMC             Private Security and Military Companies

SADC             Southern African Development Community

SAAF              South African Air Force

SANDF           South African National Defence Force

UN                  United Nations

VVIP               Very Very Important Person


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