Joint Sitting - 05 October 2000



Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces assembled in the Chamber of the National Assembly at 14:00.

The Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.


The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order! Hon members, the Speaker of the National Assembly and I have called a Joint Sitting of the Houses for a debate to honour members of the SA National Defence Force for their peacekeeping and humanitarian role. Members would know that our Parliament is renowned for being first at things, for its uniqueness, and it is, indeed, unique and unusual for a parliament to create an opportunity to honour a defence force in this way. It is now my pleasure to call on the first speaker in this debate. [Applause.]

Mr J L MAHLANGU: Chairperson, our men and women in uniform are, indeed, the pride of our nation and an asset to the people of South Africa.

Some people may argue, as members of this Parliament, in fact, did on a motion some time ago, that the role of the SA National Defence Force is to protect our borders against foreign aggression, and that it should not become involved in operations other than war, except where it is deployed to provide assistance to the police. Yet the concept of ``operations other than war’’ is not entirely new in South Africa. It has largely been ignored because of the role played by the SADF in the conflict which characterised the relationship between South Africa and its neighbours prior to the 1994 elections.

Indeed, our Constitution provides that although the primary function of the SANDF is to defend South Africa against external aggression, it may be employed in secondary functions for services in the preservation of life, health and property; for services in the provision or maintenance of essential services; and for services in support of any department or state for the purpose of socioeconomic upliftment.

It is not difficult to speak about the role which the old SA Defence Force played during the apartheid period. Many of us, as we are seated here, have practical experience of the oppressive nature of the old Defence Force, either as combatants in the liberation armies or as civilians protesting in the streets against the inhumane apartheid system. It is ironic, therefore, that, amongst others, the Defence Force that was responsible for so many gross human rights violations in the past should now be honoured for its role in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. This is indicative of the positive changes that have occurred in our country since the demise of apartheid.

Because of our unique experience in ending apartheid peacefully, we are increasingly called upon to assist in the resolution of armed conflicts on the African continent. It is important that we should accept this responsibility because of the leading role we play in the continent. In doing so, we should be careful that we do not regard peacekeeping as an end in itself. Sending peacekeeping troops to an area is an interim measure used to prevent a conflict from escalating. It is not a substitute for genuine negotiations between parties in order to terminate conflict.

Although the reasons for armed conflict on the continent are numerous, complex and often deep-rooted, social and economic underdevelopment are two of the root causes which have the potential to create armed conflict. Sustainable peace, therefore, and security are closely linked to development. Our peacekeeping approach should be informed by an understanding of this critical link. We should therefore strive to develop our continent so that we reduce the potential for conflict and thus the need for peacekeeping troops.

With regards to the latter - the domestic humanitarian assistance - since 1994, there has been a new awareness of the benefit of military technology and expertise to improve the nation’s physical and social infrastructure, and the quality of life of our people whom we stand for. Indeed, we saw the invaluable contribution made by the SA National Defence Force during the recent floods which caused enormous damage to large parts of our country, especially in the province from which I come, Mpumalanga, and the Northern Province, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape as well as the neighbouring country of Mozambique. Through their assistance, we were able to reduce the number of losses, both in terms of human life and physical infrastructure.

Given the fact that our disaster management strategy is still in its infancy and the reality that natural disasters cannot be avoided and could strike at any time and anywhere, we will, as an interim measure, continue to rely on the SA National Defence Force to provide relief assistance. It is not uncommon for defence forces in other countries to have specialised units which are primarily used for domestic assistance such as disaster relief. The Canadian defence force, for example, established a disaster assistance response team which consists of 200 defence force personnel who can be deployed quickly to conduct emergency relief operations. The US Army has civil affairs units which are part of the army reserves and are mission- tasked to prepare for and conduct disaster relief operations together with civil authorities.

One is fully aware of the argument against the employment of military personnel for socioeconomic developments, in that it may blur the distinction between military and civilian spheres. It is also argued that it could contribute to the militarisation of civil society, undermine the preparedness of the military with regard to its primary function and undermine the image of the SANDF in the eyes of sections of our community. There is an element of truth in this. I visited one of our neighbouring countries late last year, and I was informed that the members of the defence force had 10 seats in parliament as an interest body. I hope that ours will not be demanding such a position. [Interjections.]

It is also argued that the inappropriate use of the military in nonmilitary activities is economically inefficient, but this has not proved to be true in the case of the USA and Canada. The reason is that they have establish special units specifically formed to deal with nonmilitary operations such as disaster management. Maybe as a country we need to explore the possibility of establishing a similar unit. We already have a part-time component, as well as commandos - I am sure all of us are aware of some of the activities they are alleged to be involved in - which could be modelled on the Canadian disaster assistance response team and therefore resolve some of the problems that our country is facing.

We have come together today to do nothing less than salute our men and women in uniform. I think we as the ANC really appreciate their service to our country and we honour them very much. [Applause.]

Brig Gen P J SCHALKWYK: Chairperson, hon members, we are here to honour the SA National Defence Force and not to bury it. We from the DP have nothing but praise for what the SANDF has achieved, especially in its humanitarian tasks. Our National Defence Force has always been - and, we are sure, will always be - a pillar of strength on which we can rely in times of emergency, whether of a security nature or a natural disaster.

The role of the SANDF in the peacetime situation in South Africa is threefold: firstly, and easily predicted, our possible involvement in peace support, peacekeeping or peace enforcement operations anywhere in Africa; secondly, assisting with border control and internal security; and lastly, assistance with humanitarian tasks, which invariably cannot be predicted. Apart from our involvement in Lesotho, the SANDF has not really been involved during our present state of peace in any external peace operations in an African country. Africa faces many challenges in the years ahead: the Western Sahara, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Angola. Stability in Zimbabwe has also become a cause for concern. The result of instability in our neighbouring countries is the migration of the populace towards South Africa. That immediately places a burden on us, in that the gap between the workforce available and job opportunities increases by the day, and so does the burden on our social services. For this reason border control has become essential.

Recently the SANDF has become better known for the successes which it has achieved in its participation in humanitarian tasks. The White Paper specifically makes provision for nonmilitary tasks which they may perform, but the House must take note of the fact that the SANDF is designed and equipped chiefly to fulfil its primary mission of defence against aggression. Nevertheless, the SANDF has soldiers, sailors, airmen and medics - skills and resources which can be utilised for various nonmilitary tasks in support of the civil authority. What the House must also take note of is that the Department of Defence does not budget for expenses incurred as a result of natural disasters, and that the operational preparedness of the SANDF is thus progressively and adversely affected if it is overtasked.

Ons Leër het heelwat suksesse met grensbeheer behaal, en gedurende die oorstromings met die herstel van brûe en paaie en die bou van skuilings en die voorsiening van skoon water aan die gemeenskappe. [Our Army has achieved quite a number of successes with border control, and during the floods with the repair of bridges and roads, the erection of shelters and the provision of clean water to communities.]

Our Air Force was exceptionally successful. During November and December last year they provided air transport support during the Mozambican elections. During the floods in Mozambique this year, the helicopter crews rescued no fewer than 8 150 adults and 6 241 children.

In conclusion I must warn the House that, firstly, we must not let the accolades bestowed on the SANDF today cloud the situation in which it finds itself. The SANDF has been operating on a shoestring budget and has proverbially started eating the seed potatoes. There are no funds to replace items such as tents and vehicles, let alone to buy petrol. There are not sufficient funds to keep aircraft flying as we would like to see them flying, or vehicles mobile. It has become overstretched and underfunded, and what is most worrying is the degeneration of the army’s reserve force.

In the past, these units have been the backbone of the army in conventional operations and for local tasks. They have become practically nonexistent because of lack of recruits and funds, and there is no incentive, for example, to train artillerymen and tankers over weekends, because they do not have the equipment. This situation is a tragedy, and the longer we wait to rectify the situation, the longer it will take to elevate our forces to the level they were at before the financial cuts. The ultimate fighting strength of the SANDF lies in the reserve force, and this has been demonstrated through history.

Finally, the DP wishes to congratulate the SANDF on their achievements during the fires, the sea rescue operations, the flood relief operations, the medical support, the border protection and the very many other humanitarian tasks which they have been given, and we pledge that we will support them as much as we can, to ensure that they do not degenerate any further and that they keep improving. We do not want to see the SANDF buried. They must always be able to perform with such success that we have no alternative but to praise them. [Applause.]

Mr N S MIDDLETON: Chairperson, hon Ministers and hon members, the role of the SA National Defence Force during the severe floods that devastated our two countries, that is South Africa and Mozambique, was the most remarkable act of real ubuntu, since World War II.

Members of the SA National Defence Force did us proud, not only on our borders, but also in the SADC region as well as worldwide. This underlines the fact that, when a nation is at peace, its army still has a vital role to play for its people. For example, when natural disasters occur, such as earthquakes, floods you name it - an army can be called upon to provide medical supplies and food and to restore communication links, as well as water and electricity supplies. Armies are also expected to help to establish peace in other war-torn countries.

During the severe floods that we witnessed, both in this country and in Mozambique, approximately 15 000 people were rescued and more than 7 500 tons of food, medical aid and emergency supplies were delivered by the SA National Defence Force to people in need, both in South Africa and in Mozambique. In Mozambique alone, our Defence Force rescued almost 14 500 people and delivered more than 2 468 tons of food and other essential aids to assist the country in its plight, which nearly wiped out all its villages and their people.

Our Defence Force has made the deliberations of this House on regional co- operation and peace a realisable dream. It is an undisputed fact that South Africa has become an authentic member and a staunch supporter of regional development initiatives. South Africa has diligently fulfilled its mandate within SADC structures. All these and other initiatives could not and would not have been achieved if our National Defence Force, in line with other state functionaries, had not pulled its weight behind such initiatives. Therefore, the IFP hopes and prays that this spirit of comradeship in our Defence Force will be a shining example, particularly to those few soldiers in our Defence Force who are still clinging to racism and refusing to change their attitudes towards a new democratic South Africa.

We say, in this House: Long live the new National Defence Force of South Africa! Long live!

HON MEMBERS: Long live! [Applause.]

Mr H A SMIT: Madam Chair, I want to start today with a general statement. I want to say that close co-operation between the military and politicians is required before unleashing the dogs of war. The intervention in Lesotho is perhaps a good example of using the military to support state political initiatives to diffuse a threat to security inside the country and to the region. However, I will today refrain from being negative. [Interjections.] [Laughter.]

Perhaps the fact that the Lesotho security forces were not united amongst themselves prevented the outbreak of what could have been a short but nasty war situation between them and the SA National Defence Force or SADC. Although, ostensibly, there is calm at present, it is still too early to say that, with the help of the military, political normality has returned to Lesotho. It is obvious that we should ask whether military intervention can bring about peace and stability in the long term, either in a regional or a continental context. A political decision to send the military into a country that requests assistance will be futile if the military itself is not fully prepared and the human resources are not trained for conflict prevention or peacekeeping.

In the modern world, no country can lay claim any longer to an existence of so-called island isolation. Owing to globalisation, deviations from the orderly in one country can very easily affect the socioeconomic order in neighbouring states, and eventually pose a threat to the security of our beloved region. Security, be it political security or food security, for example, is no longer a domestic prerogative, but a security issue in the region and an issue with a larger perspective.

Consideration should be given to developing a comprehensive strategy in terms of which regional groupings, for example Ecowas, SADC or Comesa, can interchange their forces for peacekeeping operations in seeking to bring about national and regional security and stability. Yes, the SA National Defence Force has a role to play on our continent and we honour them for the role they are playing.

Since 1952 Africa has witnessed more than 80 coups d’etat in which the military has wrested power from civilians and later from state governments. Oppression and corruption followed in the wake of these takeovers. To name a few: Burundi in 1988, and the Comoros and Côte d’Ivoire in 1999 saw the most recent military takeovers of state governments through the age-old practice of coups d’etat.

The military can and should play an important supportive role to the civilian authorities. In the field of humanitarian operations, the SA Air Force, as mentioned here earlier today, played a significant role in Mozambique during the floods that ravaged that country in March this year. It not only saved lives, but also rendered logistical support in the transport of much-needed relief supplies such as food, medicine and clothing. In the case of droughts, armies have been utilised to transport water, food and animal fodder to affected areas.

We in the New NP salute the SA National Defence Force for the role they have played and are still playing. I only hope that Cabinet will ensure that all the pros and cons have been duly considered before we finally send our beloved troops to the DRC. We are proud of our Defence Force, but we also, in this honourable House, have an enormous responsibility towards this proud force. We salute them. [Applause.]

Mr M E MABETA: Madam Speaker, I am happy to join my colleagues who have spoken before me in congratulating and commending the SA National Defence Force on its dedicated and brilliant performance in peacekeeping activites, particularly in Mozambique during the floods there recently.

It is in situations such as this that we can employ our resources to benefit the largest number of needy people. It is also this kind of involvement that must be developed and perfected. There are numerous such deserving situations in the continent to which we can contribute our expertise. We can only do so if we are able, as a nation and as a Government, to develop the capacity of the SA National Defence Force to carry out these constitutionally-sanctioned peacekeeping activities.

We have several areas that we could focus on to enhance their capacity. One such area is racism, so that our forces, when involved in peacekeeping activities outside, can be seen as a united force. Another area is gender sensitivity, so that the respect between men and women that is displayed within our peacekeeping forces can be admired by others. [Applause.] The other issues are professionalism, corruption, crime and the lack of primary training in different basic areas within the SANDF and, especially, in specific peacekeeping operations.

Chapter 4 of the White Paper on Defence, our Constitution and the Defence Review are quite eloquent on the importance of peacekeeping activities. But central to these documents is the issue or concept of partnership. In involving our forces in peacekeeping activities, we should not do so as a hegemonic authority, but as a partner amongst equals, and in doing so, recognise peace agreements that conflicting parties have achieved, rather than enter these situations to bully others into decisions that do not enjoy the democratic sanction of those who are fighting. The preparations for peacekeeping operations, according to the White Paper, include the development of an appropriate doctrine in the context of an apartheid military machine in South Africa, This is very important - the operational procedures and training programmes in co-operation with foreign partners. The Constitution provides for parliamentary and public oversight and support for such involvement by the people of South Africa.

With this, we salute the SA National Defence Force. [Applause.]

Adv Z L MADASA: Madam Speaker, on behalf of the ACDP, I will confine myself to this issue - there are many issues that could be raised regarding this matter. I wish to associate myself with the sentiments of praise for the SA Defence Force expressed by the previous speakers. I will only emphasise the sentiments of praise.

Notwithstanding the many challenges that are facing the SA Defence Forceÿ.ÿ.ÿ.

An HON MEMBER: SA National Defence Force!

Adv Z L MADASA: Notwithstanding the many challenges that are facing the SA National Defence Force … [Applause] … when it was called in at short notice to act in Mozambique during the flood rescue operation, the force performed its task with excellence and aplomb. The manner in which our soldiers worked in Mozambique during the flood rescue operation is something that will remain in our memories for a long time.

We are very proud of the SA National Defence Force. [Laughter.] [Applause.] We must all, as we do, salute them. It is comforting to know that, despite the acute challenges facing our army, when they were faced with national duty, they were willing and capable, and acted quickly and efficiently within a short space of time.

The ACDP says: Phambili uge SANDF, phambili [Forward, SANDF, forward]. [Applause.]

The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order! It was pleasing to note that the National Assembly and the NCOP were able to teach the hon Madasa the ``N’’ so quickly. [Laughter.]

Mr J L THERON: Hon Chairperson, today we in the DA can proudly say … [Interjections] … that we salute the SANDF for its peace-time role.

It is indeed a proud day for South Africa and all its people that we in Parliament can honour the SANDF for its peace-time role. I think all of us can be even prouder of our Defence Force for their heroic deeds in Mozambique than we were of our Springbok rugby team when they won the World Cup.

As we all know, many of those heroic deeds were televised worldwide, which meant a great deal for South Africa’s international image. With the operations in Mozambique and Lesotho, South Africa definitely proved itself to be a regional power that can successfully carry out international rescue and peacekeeping operations with great distinction.

It is also important to honour the SANDF for the education, training and development of its personnel, which enable them to carry out the humanitarian operations so effectively. Let us not forget the huge efforts and resources that go into the education, training and development of personnel to enhance their capabilities to such high levels.

Van provinsiale perspektief moet ook hulde aan die SANW gebring word vir die vredesrol wat hy daar vervul. Gedurende die groot oorstromings van Februarie tot Maart 2000 in veral die Noordelike Provinsie, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal en die Oos-Kaap is groot humanitêre werk verrig. Etlike paaie is herbou, noodbrûe moes opgerig word, tydelike huisvesting in tente en skoon water en nood mediese dienste moes verskaf word.

Die toenemend belangrike rol wat die SANW in misdaadbekamping en betogingsbeheer in Suid-Afrika speel, moet ook eervol vermeld word. Belangrike opleiding en ontwikkeling in dié verband word ook gedoen. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)

[From the provincial perspective tribute must also be paid to the SANDF for the peace-time role which it is playing there. During the big floods of February and March 2000, particularly in the Northern Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, great humanitarian work was done. Many roads were rebuilt, emergency bridges had to be erected, temporary accommodation in tents and clean water and emergency medical services had to be provided.

The increasingly important role which the SANDF is playing in combating crime and controlling riots in South Africa, also deserves an honourable mention. Important training and development is also being done in this regard.]

It is necessary to make an urgent appeal to the Minister of Defence and the executive to protect this valuable national asset that South Africa has in the SANDF. I want to ask them to ensure that enough funds are budgeted for the SANDF further to enhance effective personnel education, training and development, research, infrastructure and equipment, to facilitate the future peace-time role of the SANDF.

On behalf of the DA I would like to salute the SANDF on its peace-time role. [Interjections.] [Applause.]

Genl C L VILJOEN: Mevrou die Voorsitter, ek wil vandag graag my twee minute gebruik om, namens my party, die VF, ‘n boodskap aan die mense in uniform te bring.

Hierdie land van ons, en dit is my boodskap, is ‘n groot land, ‘n land met baie potensiaal, ‘n land met baie probleme, ‘n land met baie uitdagings. Een van die belangrikste bydraes wat die mense in uniform moet lewer, is om stabiliteit te handhaaf. In die verlede was dit die rol van die mense in uniform om stabiliteit te handhaaf en daar was nooit probleme nie. Ons het nie die land in die steek gelaat nie.

In die Eerste Wêreldoorlog en die Tweede Wêreldoorlog het ons uitgeblink in stabiliteit en ons het hierdie stabiliteit gehandhaaf, ook nou gedurende hierdie oorgangsproses. Dit is my boodskap aan hulle dat hulle ‘n primêre taak het om uit te voer. Daardie primêre taak is eerstens om te sorg dat hulle die land waarin ons almal woon, moet kan beskerm, want ons wil graag hierdie land ‘n mooi, gelukkige land maak vir al die mense wat daarin woon, en hulle is die beskermer, hulle is die versekeringspolis van hierdie land. Dit is hulle eerste taak.

Wanneer dit kom by die tweede taak is dit so dat daar in die Weermag ‘n groot potensiaal in die uniformgeledere beskikbaar is. Met die groot belegging wat ons in die uniformgeledere maak, moet hulle hul ook tot beskikking stel van hierdie land, as ons dit nodig vind, vir humanitêre en ander aangeleenthede. Ek weet, as ‘n oud-uniformdraer, dit is nie altyd die mees plesierige tipe werk om te doen nie, maar dit is uiters noodsaaklik. Daarom wil ek namens die VF vir hulle sê baie dankie vir die wyse waarop hulle stabiliteit gehandhaaf het in die primêre rol, maar ook in die sekondêre rol.

Ek wil afsluit deur hulle te herinner dat diegene wat die uniforms van hierdie land dra ‘n groot verantwoordelikheid het, naamlik dat hulle die land waardig moet wees. ‘n Mens kan net die land waardig wees as jy jou altyd só gedra, as jy jou primêre en sekondêre take só vervul dat die land op jou trots kan wees. So ver het hulle daarin geslaag. Hulle moet asseblief daarmee volhou en waardige Suid-Afrikaanse uniformdraers wees. [Applous.] (Translation of Afrikaans speech follows.)

[Gen C L VILJOEN: Madam Chairperson, I would like to use my two minutes today to send a message, on behalf of my party, the FF, to the people in uniform.

This country of ours, and this is my message, is a large country, a country with great potential, a country with many problems, a country with many challenges. One of the most important contributions which the people in uniform must make is to maintain stability. In the past it was the role of the people in uniform to maintain stability and there were never any problems. We did not let the country down.

In the First World War and in the Second World War we excelled as regards stability, and we maintained this stability, also now during the transformation process. My message to them is that they have a primary task to perform. That primary task is, firstly, to see to it that they are able to protect the country in which all of us live, because we would like to make this country a beautiful, happy country for all the people that live in it, and they are the protector, they are the insurance policy of this country. That is their first task.

When it comes to the second task, it is a fact that in the Defence Force there is great potential within the uniformed ranks. With the big investment that we make in the uniformed ranks, they must also place themselves at the disposal of this country, if we find it necessary, for humanitarian and other matters. I know, as a person who formerly wore a uniform, that this is not always the most pleasant kind of work to do, but it is extremely necessary. Therefore, on behalf of the FF, I want to thank them very much for the way in which they have maintained stability in the primary role, but also in the secondary role.

I want to conclude by reminding them that those who wear the uniforms of this country have a great responsibility, namely that they must be worthy of the country. One can only be worthy of the country if one always behaves in such a way, and if one fulfils one’s primary and secondary tasks in such a way that the country can be proud of one. To date they have achieved this. They must please continue with this and be worthy South African men and women in uniform. [Applause.]]

Mr P H K DITSHETELO: Chairperson, this is indeed a great day today. The UCDP has long recognised and acknowledged without reservation the crucial role played by the SA National Defence Force in restoring law and order in Lesotho, with the assistance of the courts of the Basotho nation and other countries, in times of need. It is indeed an honour for me to note this achievement by our forces in bringing about stability in the region. It has not been an easy task for our men and women in Lesotho. It was an acid test for our forces to participate in this type of exercise for the first time. They risked their lives for their country’s and SADC’s call to save lives in Lesotho. We therefore honour them for that and for the manner in which they conducted themselves in Lesotho. We thank every member of their families for their support and prayers for their safe return to South Africa. They indeed behaved like a professional peacekeeping force and we do not doubt that.

Now that the possibility of sending them to the DRC is no longer remote, we should ensure that they are not treated as bad South African soldiers who are there to dictate to the locals, but as a peacekeeping force. Our Ministries of Defence and of Foreign Affairs should ensure that before we send them away, there is indeed peace in the country. We should not send our forces to make peace, but to maintain and sustain peace.

We congratulate and salute them. Long live the SANDF! [Applause.]

Dr M S MOGOBA: Chairperson, in our country the national defence forces have been pre-eminently linked to the disastrous wars of liberation along the borders of our country, and even across our borders into our neighbouring states.

In the modern democratic dispensation the question has been put many times as to what our Defence Force is doing when there is no war. Are they preparing all the time for a war that may or may not break out? Our view has also been that our Defence Force should strike a clear balance between defence and development, because if there is no development, there will be endless instability caused by rumbling stomachs, unemployment and lack of basic necessities of life like water, power, schools and clinics.

The natural disasters caused by the recent floods brought to the surface another danger that none of us had planned for. Our Defence Force gallantly came to the fore and served in a heroic manner by saving people, particularly in Mozambique. They even helped a mother in labour, itself a very important symbol of our SANDF being on the side of life, rather than on the side of death.

We believe that our neighbouring countries in SADC and in Africa have all noticed that we have brave members in our forces who respond to any threat to life. It is a service of this nature to one’s country and to humanity that stands out far beyond heroism in war, and which will be remembered long after war. There are calls upon our forces to help in peacekeeping in Lesotho and in the African Lake District, and we know that our forces will be ready when they are needed.

Our country has established a reputation, which is rightly deserved, in the areas of peace, negotiation and mediation.

The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order! Your speaking time has expired, hon member.

An HON MEMBER: You are being chopped.

Dr M S MOGOBA: I am being chopped. [Laughter.]

The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: I did not chop the member.

Like the SANDF, I am a peacekeeper. [Laughter.]

Mrs J N VILAKAZI: Madam Chairperson, hon Deputy President, hon members, for a black South African it is like a dream come true to have a defence force which one can identify with and be proud of. [Interjections.] Gone are the circumstances which placed the Defence Force on the side of the enemies of freedom and democracy.

It is in this spirit that, on behalf of the IFP, I rise to salute our men and women, who constitute the SA National Defence Force, for the outstanding role they played during the recent floods which ravaged our country. Not only did they respond to those in our country, they also went beyond the call of duty in the true spirit of the African renaissance and rescued our brothers and sisters in Mozambique.

History has it that during those difficult times they displayed another one of their skills, which had not previously been known. They managed the truly historic feat of guiding a woman stuck in a tree through labour. [Applause.]

Whenever the country has faced a crisis, be it crime, as we saw with the Golden Arrow Bus Company and taxi conflict here in Cape Town, or be it the maintenance of law and order in the midst of the worst violence, the SANDF has never been found wanting. They have never hesitated to put their lives at risk for the good of the country.

On an occasion like this, the IFP expresses its condolences to the family members of all the members of the SANDF who have lost their lives in different violent circumstances. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

Miss S RAJBALLY: Madam Chairperson, Ministers, hon members, South Africa is committed to the ideologies of co-existence, global harmony, world peace, human dignity and the liberation of the spirit of the human race. The deployment of SANDF soldiers to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo is a stepping stone for South Africa in actually realising the vision of world peace and harmony.

The preparedness, operational readiness, mental and physical fitness and leadership skills displayed by the SA National Defence Force during natural disasters and social conflicts, strike a balance between morality and systematic governance. South Africa has become the leading nation on the African continent, despite our own economic and social problems. We are all, through the co-operation of the SANDF, trying to re-establish the messages of love, service to society and basic human rights.

God bless our SA National Defence Force. [Applause.]

Mr P A MATTHEE: Mr Chairperson, we wish to thank and commend the SANDF, especially our heroes and heroines who selflessly exposed themselves to mortal danger in their quest to rescue and to save human lives during the recent natural disasters in South Africa and Mozambique. We are truly proud of our women and men in the SANDF, and are grateful that we had the capacity in our National Defence Force which enabled us to extend a helping hand and to open our hearts to our compatriots and neighbours who had to submit to the forces of nature.

Ek wil ook graag van hierdie geleentheid gebruik maak om hulde te bring aan al die lede wat op ‘n vrywillige basis in die burgermag en kommando’s dien, en hulle te bedank vir hulle vrywillige en onbaatsugtige diens aan ons land en die gemeenskappe wat hulle bedien. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)

[I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the members who are serving in the citizen force and the commandos on a voluntary basis, and thank them for their voluntary and unselfish service to our country and the communities they serve.]

We should always remember that the primary function of the SANDF, as defined in our Constitution, also during peacetime, is to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people, in accordance with the Constitution. This is done in peacetime through deterrents and by means of nonviolent strategies which are not perceived as a threat by our neighbours. Deterrents, however, require the existence of a strong, professional and prepared defence force whose credibility is sufficient to discourage potential aggressors.

Alhoewel daar nie in die onmiddellike of afsienbare toekoms ‘n konvensionele militêre bedreiging teen Suid-Afrika is nie, maak die onvoorspelbaarheid van internasionale verhoudings en die potensiaal van binnelandse konflik dit altyd moontlik dat ‘n onvoorsiene bedreiging baie vinnig kan materialiseer. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.) [Although there is no conventional military threat to South Africa in the immediate or foreseeable future, the unpredictability of international relations and the potential for internal conflict always make it possible that an unforeseen threat could materialise very quickly.]

A democracy can only flourish in a country where there is peace. We can only succeed in getting our new coat of arms and motto to unite our diverse people if we have peace. We can only let the rising sun in our coat of arms

  • the symbol of the source of life, light and the ultimate wholeness of humanity - shine over a prosperous South African society, with open opportunities for all, where every person is free, responsible, equal before the law, secure and has the chance to improve the quality of his or her life, if we have peace.

The House will note that the spear and the knobkerrie in our coat of arms, which are the symbols of defence and authority, are lying down, symbolising peace. They, in turn, however, also represent the powerful legs of the secretary bird. For as long as our National Defence Force also represents the powerful legs of the secretary bird, we will have peace, because a powerful and prepared National Defence Force, during peacetime, remains one of the best guarantees for peace, and, therefore, will enable all of us here to make our new coat of arms and motto a living symbol for all our diverse people. [Applause.]

Mnr C AUCAMP: Mevrou die Voorsitter, ‘n land se nasionale weermag is sy trots. Dit is meer as ‘n mag, dit is eintlik ‘n simbool, nie net van beskerming nie, maar ook van paraatheid.

Ons salueer vandag ons Weermag vir verskeie prestasies, by uitstek vir humanitêre prestasies in die onlangse verlede. Mosambiek is ‘n baie goeie voorbeeld. Bykans 15 000 lewens is gered. Dit is iets wat ons nog altyd gedoen het. Ek onthou in 1968 was die Weermag die amptelike brandweer in Zeerust!

Die Weermag is ‘n samelewing op sy eie. Daar is ingenieurs, medici, kokke, ambagsmanne ensovoorts, en is ideaal geposisioneer om juis hierdie rol te vervul. Daar is reeds verwys na grensbeheer. Ook met krisisse soos nou in die geval van die bek-en-klou-seer kan ons Weermag ‘n taak vervul sodat die Polisie se hande los kan bly.

Met betrekking tot die vredesmagrol van die Weermag moet ons onthou ‘n vredesmag kan nie ingestuur word waar daar nog nie vrede is nie. Hy moet die vrede handhaaf, nie vrede skep nie. Eers wanneer die politieke rol vervul is, kan die militêre rol daar vervul word. Daarom doen ek ook ‘n beroep op ons Regering om geen vredesmag na die DRK te stuur voor daar nie vrede is nie.

Met betrekking tot die Weermag se rol in vredestyd moet ons ons vandag afvra of ons werklik kan praat van vrede in Suid-Afrika as bykans 1 000 boere en hulle afhanklikes sedert 1994 koelbloedig op hulle plase vermoor is. Die geskikste antwoord hiervoor is dat ons ‘n effektiewe, plaaslik georganiseerde kommandostelsel het wat van die beste ter wêreld is. Hulle moet bemagtig word om in hierdie situasie te help.

Ek wil afsluit. Hartlik geluk aan ons Weermag. Ek wens hulle sterkte toe met hulle probleme, ook waar dit soms moeilik is om te onderskei tussen dissipline en rassisme. Mag hulle hul taak só vervul dat elke Suid- Afrikaner in veiligheid sy roeping kan vervul en dat elke soldaat nog steeds kan sing: ``Ag, man, dis lekker in die ‘Army’!’’ [Gelag.] [Applous.] (Translation of Afrikaans speech follows.)

[Mr C AUCAMP: Madam Chairperson, a country’s national defence force is its pride. It is more than a force, it is actually a symbol, not only of protection, but also of preparedness.

Today we salute our Defence Force for various achievements, especially for recent humanitarian achievements. Mozambique is a very good example. Nearly 15 000 lives were saved. That is something we have always done. I remember that in 1968 the Defence Force was the official fire brigade in Zeerust!

The Defence Force is a society on its own. There are engineers, medics, cooks, artisans, etc and it is ideally positioned to fulfil this specific role. Mention has already been made of border control. Also during crises such as the present outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease our Defence Force can play a role so that the Police can pay attention to other matters.

With regard to the role of the Defence Force as a peacekeeping force, we have to bear in mind that a peacekeeping force cannot be sent in where there is not yet peace. It must maintain peace, not create peace. Only after the political role has been played, can the military role be played there. For that reason I also appeal to the Government not to send a peacekeeping force to the DRC before there is peace.

With regard to the role of the Defence Force in times of peace, we have to ask ourselves today whether we can really talk about peace in South Africa when approximately 1 000 farmers and their dependants have been murdered in cold blood on their farms since 1994. The most appropriate answer for this is that we have an efficient, locally organised commando system which is among the best in the world. They must be empowered to help in this situation.

I want to conclude. Sincere congratulations to our Defence Force. I wish them everything of the best with their problems, also where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between discipline and racism. May they fulfil their task in such a manner that every South African can fulfil his or her mission in safety and every soldier can still sing: ``Ag, man, dis lekker in die `Army’!’’ [Laughter.] [Applause.]]

Mr M A MANGENA: Chairperson, a few years ago the Defence Force of this country was a rogue and a villain, whose appearance anywhere in Southern Africa meant death and destruction. It was an enemy of the majority of the people in our own country and an enemy of our neighbours. It was a defence force that was feared and hated by most of us.

It is, therefore, remarkable to see our Defence Force today using its wonderful skills not to kill, maim and destroy property, but to save lives in emergencies. It was wonderful and heart-warming to see them risk their own lives, day in and day out, plucking people from tree-tops and roof-tops in flood-stricken Mozambique recently, and taking them to safety.

Sitting in our own homes and watching on television, we marvelled at the skill, courage, endurance and, above all, the humanity of the men and women in the SA National Defence Force. Our hearts were filled with nothing but joy and pride. The rescue operations in Mozambique during the floods were the most dramatic and eye-catching peacetime operations of the SA National Defence Force. Their operations in their own country during the same floods, in the Northern Province and Mpumalanga, were less dramatic, but no less heroic and noble.

This occasion in this House, arranged to allow our national Parliament to honour the peace-time role of our Defence Force, to recognise in a formal way their gallant deeds, is both fitting and proper. We are certain that what is said here today will find a resounding echo in the minds and hearts of all our people in this country and beyond our borders. Azapo is enormously proud of this SA National Defence Force and the humanitarian role it plays, and we wish it success in such missions in the future. [Applause.]

Mr R M NYAKANE: Chairperson, it is fitting that today our Parliament is taking stock of the role that the SA National Defence Force played in bringing peace to the countries riven by political conflicts.

The year 2000 has been proclaimed the International Year for the Culture of Peace. We salute and commend the SA National Defence Force for the dedication, commitment and acrobatic feats displayed during their rescue operations, when the northern part of Mozambique was immersed in flood water. The world has witnessed the SA National Defence Force’s heroism and the good deeds it displayed. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Yes, there has been the Lesotho episode, and there has been an outbreak of political conflict. It is often said: We learn by our mistakes'', or rather:Experience is the best teacher.’’ Criticisms have been levelled against the SA National Defence Force, because there has been loss of life.

The Lesotho episode was a brush-up - once bitten, twice shy. Yet, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angolan political conflicts will soon be other test cases. The United Nations and the heads of state aspire for a peaceful resolution of these conflicts. Protracted negotiations should take precedence, rather than resorting to military intervention which could tarnish the high respect the Defence Force has earned already. After all, South Africa has managed to resolve its conflicts without engaging any military junta.

Long live the SA National Defence Force! [Applause.] The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order! Hon members, before calling on the next speaker, I would like us to recognise the presence of Major General Nyanda, the chief of the SA National Defence Force and the heads of the various arms of the SA National Defence Force, the Medical Corps, the Air Force, the Navy and our other forces. [Applause.]

I would also like to draw your attention to the presence of the corporal who was responsible for assisting a mother with the delivery of her baby in a tree in Mozambique. [Applause.] I am not certain where that unique and heroic individual is in the gallery. I would like to ask him to stand up. [Applause.]

Mr J N MASHIMBYE: Mevrou die Voorsitter, ek wil graag vir genl Viljoen, die leier van die VF, dankie sê vir sy positiewe toespraak. [Applous.] [Madam Chair, I would like to thank Gen Viljoen, the leader of the FF, for his positive speech. [Applause.]]

The only way in which we can emulate the deeds of our many men and women in uniform in the areas in question is to request Parliament to lead, as urgently as possible, the review of the Defence Review which we undertook in 1994. Clearly, there would need to be a balance between the defence policy and stance and the resources required to execute their mandate. We will have to do that. [Applause.]

I do think that we might have been a bit ambitious in our defence policy as we drafted it in 1994. I think that it is incumbent on us, as public representatives, to engage in that defence review. We will lead that.

Mr D H M GIBSON: In another couple of years.

Mr J N MASHIMBYE: Thank you, Mr Gibson.

Today, there will be no trench coats, bicycles and knobkerries. When we recall the evil deeds of yesterday, it is with the intention of reminding ourselves and inspiring ourselves not to repeat the tragic past. It is in that spirit that a few days ago, when we spoke on this very podium and discussed the recommendations of the racism conference, we agreed not to repeat the unthinkable and humiliating treatment which was meted out to the black and coloured soldiers on their return from World War II. I repeat that, today, there will be no trench coats, bicycles and knobkerries. [Applause.] As an appropriate departure from that past we must, today, agree to honour, in this manner and fashion, members of a unified SA National Defence Force. We refuse to do what Peter Woodhouse observed in 1605 when he said:

I see a soldier’s service is forgotten. In time of peace, the world regards us not.

Our love for, gratitude to and pride in our Defence Force are what we humbly entrust to them. There will be no trench coats, bicycles and knobkerries. [Laughter.]

As the fires raged and the floods ravaged, a prayer and a desperate cry, a prayer and a cry for absolution was all that the hostages of natural disaster could utter. In the wake of the floods in Mozambique, the esteemed Graça Machel observed that, during war, hope did not die easily, because mediators would continuously engage with the belligerents of a conflict. Madam Machel went on to observe that when natural disasters strike, at times all one can do is pray, and hope and pray for absolution. As the Rev Kenneth Meshoe would say, the Almighty works and offers absolution in many and different ways. [Interjections.] Those, our sons and daughters in uniform, the sons and daughters of a free, nonracial and democratic South Africa, rescued a mother clinging to a tree and gave warmth to her child born on that tree. These are our heroes.

In the troubled world of yesterday, Louis Simpson, a poet born in 1923, said, and I quote:

I dreamed of war heroes, of wounded war heroes With just enough of their charms shot away To make them more handsome. The women moved nearer To touch their brave wounds and their hair streaked with gray. I saw them in long ranks ascending the gangplanks; The girls with the doughnuts were cheerful and gay. They … muttered their thanks; The chaplain advised them to watch and to pray. They shipped these rapscallions, these seasick battalions, To a patriotic and picturesque spot; They gave them new Bibles and marksmen’s medallions, Compasses, maps, and committed the lot. A fine dust has settled on all that scrap metal. The heroes were packaged and sent home in parts To pluck at a poppy and sew on a petal And count the long night by the stroke of their hearts.

Today, however, we will happily sing a song and say, about these men in uniform:

All this with gallant hearts is done; All this with patient hearts is borne

We are proud of them.

Ha va rhandza swinene. [We love them very much.] [Applause.]

The DEPUTY MINISTER OF DEFENCE: Chairperson of the NCOP, Deputy President, hon members, my task in this debate is a small one, which I perform with pride and honour. I want to thank, first and foremost, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Frene Ginwala, the Chairperson of the NCOP - you, Madam, in the Chair - and the members of Parliament for this special honour given to the SA National Defence Force today. This is probably the first time in the world that a parliament has bestowed such high honour on a defence force.

What members have heard and seen today regarding this honour that Parliament has bestowed on the SA National Defence Force for the peace-time role it has played in our country and region goes to show beyond doubt that indeed we do have a dedicated and committed National Defence Force. We have in our National Defence Force a majority of men and women who are committed and dedicated to serving this, our nation. They do so under very trying conditions.

Despite the fact that soldiers are not the best-paid public servants, they perform extremely difficult and dangerous work with distinction and pride. The nation and the world saw how, during the floods, our soldiers put their own lives at risk, while doing everything to save people facing certain death. We are rightfully proud of the role the SANDF has played and continues to play in peacetime.

Despite the problems that have come to light regarding racism and the slow pace of transformation, we must not lose sight of the achievements that have been made in the short six years of integration of former adversaries. What we have achieved - and we know we must now accelerate the pace - is something that has not been achieved elsewhere.

We have integrated seven former defence forces that were on opposite sides of the liberation war in our country. While we recognise the fact that there are problems within the SANDF, it would be wrong to paint the whole of the SANDF with the same brush. The problems in the security forces are the product of a deeply entrenched patriarchal and racist culture that has permeated all aspects of social life.

This Government, under the leadership of our President, Thabo Mkeki, has made great strides, not only in recognising and promoting women’s leadership, but also in ensuring that the Constitution and our laws reflect a firm commitment to gender and racial equality. As the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, President Mbeki and the Minister of Defence are working tirelessly to ensure racial and gender equality within the SANDF. As a matter of fact, I would like to inform the House that I have been tasked by the Minister of Defence to meet with women soldiers in order to identify specific problems that they are experiencing, which may inhibit their development and promotion within the SANDF. [Applause.]

The Council on Defence, the highest decision-making body in the SANDF, has tasked the Secretary for Defence to facilitate arrangements for the directorate responsible for affirmative action and gender equity to report directly to him. This will enable the secretary and the Ministry to monitor policy implementation with regard to the promotion of nonracism and nonsexism in the SANDF.

I am pleased with the general spirit of the debate this afternoon and wish to reiterate that the responsibility for transforming our country and all state institutions rests with all of us. May I, in ending, take the opportunity to thank our Commander in Chief, the President, for the confidence he has given us to help in the rebirth of our nation and our continent. We are proud of the role he is playing in leading us into a peacemaking, peacebuilding and peacekeeping role in our continent, rather than an oppressive one.

SANDF ke ya rona [The SANDF is ours]. [Applause.]

The CHAIRPERSON OF THE NCOP: Order! Hon members, that concludes our speakers’ list. I am sure the members of the SANDF present here this afternoon will take back to other members of the force the words that have been conveyed by members of Parliament today.

Debate concluded.

The Joint sitting rose at 15:08.