Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is a danger to democratic life in South Africa
David Maynier, DA Spokesperson on Defence and Military Veterans
15 April 2012
The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that it is now time for the Speaker, Max Sisulu, to step in and properly deal with the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, who is once again refusing to reply to written parliamentary questions on the state of the South African National Defence Force.
The fact is that the Minister is fast becoming a danger to democratic life in South Africa.
The Minister has been involved in a low-intensity political war with Parliament since 2009.
Her strategy appears to be to block effective oversight of the defence force and her tactics have included:
• purging the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans;
• purging members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans;
• refusing to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts;
• refusing to allow General Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the South African Air Force, to appear at a hearing in Parliament; and
• refusing to provide replies to written parliamentary questions on the defence force.
Last week the Minister again refused to reply to a written parliamentary question on the state of the South African Air Force. The Minister refused to reply to the following parliamentary question:
(1) How many (a) Gripen and (b) Hawk aircraft were (i) delivered by 31 December 2011 and (ii) serviceable in 2011;
(2)how many hours (a) must each (i) Hawk and (ii) Gripen aircraft fly in order to maintain serviceability and (b) did each specified aircraft actually fly in 2011;
(3)whether she will make a statement on the matter?
This is not the only written parliamentary question to which the Minister has refused to reply this year.
There have been several.
The Minister has, for example, refused to provide replies to parliamentary questions focusing on:
• the operation and costs of so-called “shadow planes” used by President Jacob Zuma;
• detailed breakdowns of travel costs by members of the Armscor Board; and
• critical safety failures relating to the disposal of ammunition within the defence force.
The Minister evidently refused to reply to the question to cover up the fact that many of the Gripen and Hawk fighter jets are effectively “hanger queens” because of the chronic underfunding of the operating budget of the South African Air Force.
The Minister’s reason for refusing to reply to the written parliamentary question is bizarre. She claims in her reply that:
“The information requested by the Honourable member will be provided to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) once it has met requirements of section 199(8) of The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996”.
The Minister is effectively telling Parliament that there will be no replies to parliamentary questions, on what she decides are operational matters, unless a new defence committee is established, which meets behind closed doors, along the lines of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.
The bottom line is that the Minister has effectively issued an ultimatum to Parliament: “set up a new defence committee, which meets behind closed doors, or you won’t get any answers about the state of the defence force”.
This has gone on for too long.
We cannot sit back and allow the Minister to turn the defence force into a state-within-a-state beyond effective scrutiny and oversight in Parliament.
The DA’s Chief Whip, Watty Watson, will therefore write to the Speaker, Max Sisulu, requesting him to compel the Minister to reply to all outstanding parliamentary questions on the state of the South African National Defence Force.