Sisulu stands by decision to appoint Yengeni to defence review committee

By Osiame Molefe 31 August 2011

It looks like the defence review, which was last conducted shortly after the dawn of democracy, is nearing completion. Minister of defence and military veterans Lindiwe Sisulu has created a defence review committee to complete the final step, but has drawn criticism by appointing disgraced convict Tony Yengeni to it. By OSIAME MOLEFE.

Sisulu defended her decision to appoint convicted fraudster Tony Yengeni to her department’s defence review committee. Sisulu said at Tuesday’s media briefing, “I chose him to be a member of the committee because of the role he played in the first review. He has the necessary background of how we’ve come to be where we are.”

She said Yengeni, who was released five months into his four-year arms deal-related fraud conviction, has served his time and is on the committee because of his knowledge and understanding of what the committee would like to achieve. The scope of the committee’s work is such that Yengeni does not need security clearance, according to Sisulu.

The committee will help the department conduct the long-overdue update to the documents that inform the work of South African National Defence Force, namely the white paper on national defence and the defence review. The last review was conducted in 1998 and previous defence ministers have failed to complete another review, on the cards since 2004.

The department completed a draft review earlier this year, but Sisulu says it is now necessary to “take on board the views of the public to ensure that the final product does represent the totality of what South African wants out of the defence force”.

The committee, headed up by former minister of defence and Armscor head Roelf Meyer, is to play a strategic role in the defence review process that will effectively redefine the government’s philosophy and policies on defence. It will deal with the role of the SANDF in national security and development and foreign policy.

The Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of defence and military veterans David Maynier opposed Yengeni’s appointment to the committee, calling him “politically toxic” because of his criminal past and the ongoing investigations into his directorships in several companies. Yengeni’s conviction prohibits him from being a company director without permission from the courts.

Sisulu said the committee, which is supposed to complete its work by November, would cost the taxpayer R6.2 million, including operational costs and travel. DM


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