This is an ignorant take. Generals have historically made terrible defence ministers of defence. Mattis & Austin are a rarity even in the US. It’s why most countries don’t do it. What ministers need is not long military service but excellent public policy background & experience.
In all of NATO, only five defence ministers have significant military experience. Only one, the US, is a former general officer. This isn’t by accident: It’s because the skills and duties of a minister of defence are very different to those of a military commander.
I’ve seen fantastic defence ministers without a single minute of military service, and terrible ones who served for years if not decades. Even the highly respected Mattis was arguably a poor US SecDef because he ignored much of the role’s broader duties.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ought to be replaced as minister of defence, but not because of her lack of significant military experience, but her inability to properly handle the setting of policy, budget, and national strategy. None of those are traditional military competencies.
It’s also rich of Cabanac to mock a minister for her education level when he can’t even spell ‘highest’ (highsest isn’t a word) in his infographic and got key facts wrong such as leaving out her military training in 1984 and 1985.
In short, no, we don’t want military generals as ministers of defence, and extended military service should not be a requirement for the position either. For that level of understanding & daily administration we have the chiefs of service who are equivalent to DGs in other depts.
Similarly a minister doesn’t have to have been a teacher to be minister of education, a top flight surgeon to be minister of health, and so on. Having those backgrounds can help, but aren’t the key differentiator in what separates good ministers from bad ones.
As I said, this isn't about the current minister. It's about the view that we want only military people as ministers of defence. That's bad from a civics point of view and it undermines the principle of civilian control of the military.

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More from @darren_olivier

14 Jul
The Minister of Defence just told Parliament that the number of SANDF personnel deployed to restore order will be increased to 25 000 for three months. Not all will be ground troops, with some portion in support roles, but it's still the SANDF's biggest deployment since 1994. 1/
Reaching this number means reaching to the very back of the cupboard and taking everything that can move, no matter the cost or sustainability. It leaves nothing in reserve & halts all other SANDF duties & commitments. It's a reflection of just how desperate things are. 2/
The Reserve Force, too, is being mobilised at a level I have not seen in the past twenty five years. Whatever can be used, will be, no matter the cost, according to the Minister. The call up will be extremely expensive, but it's necessary to add numbers. 3/
Read 10 tweets
12 Jul
Seeing as people are shocked by just 2500 troops:
1. It may be all the SAPS requested at NATJOINTS
2. Even so, the SA Army really isn’t that big. There are only 63 000 active uniformed SANDF members. About 34 000 are in the army, with only ~12 000 in dedicated infantry units. 1/
Those 12 000 or so SANDF soldiers in infantry units are split across 14 battalions. At any given time around 5 battalions are committed to peacekeeping & border patrol, leaving 9 battalions or ~8 000 troops. That doesn’t mean they’re available for long term deployments though. 2/
Thats because the battalions not immediately on operations are still busy, going through various pre-deployment, post-deployment, reintegration or training phases that either precede or succeed their own deployments. Interrupting that makes them less effective over time. 3/
Read 8 tweets
12 Jul
It's important to understand that this deployment is taking place under S201 of the Constitution and S18 & S19 of the Defence Act, and is therefore a deployment in co-operation with the SAPS rather than one where the SANDF has independent control & emergency powers. 1/
SANDF soldiers deployed in co-operation with the SAPS have some policing powers, such as detaining suspects, but can't do things like arrest people without handing them over to the SAPS. All actions need to be co-ordinated with the SAPS via the regional PROVJOC. 2/
It's likely that SANDF soldiers will be deployed away from the main areas of violence, doing things like patrols & roadblocks in order to free up SAPS officers for anti-riot duties. This is the correct approach, as for the most part the SANDF lacks anti-riot gear or training. 3/
Read 7 tweets
18 Jun
I'm honestly disappointed. This tweet is unprofessional in its framing, sensationalist, and not the quality I expect from the M&G. The article is no better, as it adopts a breathless tabloid-style tone and doesn't back up key claims like the purported R200 million cost. 1/
First, newspapers should ditch the 'Mabena' meme. It's misleading, patronising, and fundamentally unsuited for serious commentary on the armed forces. It would be like framing all reporting on govt departments or politics as 'mamparas', which would obviously be inappropriate. 2/
As for the article, the key claim that the new uniforms will cost 'between R120 million and R200 million' is not supported by any sourcing or justification at all. That's surprising, and frankly unacceptable, given how much that figure has been promoted for this story. 3/
Read 12 tweets
7 Apr
One of the most frustrating things about the defence debate in SA is the lack of knowledge about what capabilities & missions cost. e.g. To fund the existing Navy just for full utilisation would require doubling its budget to around R8-9 billion p.a. But it wouldn’t be enough. 1/
Realistically, SA would need dozens more ships & aircraft to be able to properly patrol its huge EEZ, mammoth search & rescue area, and conduct foreign operations like those off Mozambique. It’s too large an area for four frigates & a few OPVs, esp. with maintenance cycles. 2/
How many are actually needed for that level of control? Every war gamed scenario points to around a dozen frigates, 15-20 OPVs, another 15-20 IPVs, at least two support ships, and many others. Plus shipborne helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft. 3/
Read 10 tweets
23 Aug 20
This is something a few of us have known about but been unable to write about till now. Staff at Denel Dynamics were told that a crucial contract to sell Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles to Egypt was cancelled because no South African bank would guarantee the advance payment. 1/
Multi-billion Rand arms sales are quite complex, they’re never just a straight trade of cash for goods. In most cases the client, in this case TKMS on behalf of the Egyptian Navy, first provides a portion of the contract value as an advance payment to pay for ramp up costs. 2/
In these cases the advance payment is essentially like a deposit, and manufactures like Denel are obliged to pay back most or all of it if they fail to deliver the contracted value. To ensure this happens, nearly every buying country insists on a bank guaranteeing the payment. 3/
Read 10 tweets

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