Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has described as reckless and irresponsible recent remarks by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema that soldiers would turn their guns on the government.
The minister was delivering her department’s R47-billion budget in Parliament.
Mapisa-Nqakula has warned politicians against trying to use the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) to pursue political agendas.
“I have on several occasions appealed to all members in this parliament to resist the dangerous temptation of playing politics with an important asset such as the SANDF. Nobody should be allowed to even insinuate that this military can be used to pursue the political agendas of any party,” adds Mapisa-Nqakula.
Earlier, Mapisa-Nqakula told journalists that the SANDF had been tested in the past and was found to be non-partisan.
“It has been tested before. We’ve had political challenges in the country some of which were right at the doorstep of the ruling party and the SANDF was never found interfering in those instances.”
And buying another presidential jet is not off the radar. “We are now preparing to lease aircraft while we are preparing to procure one. We cannot compromise the safety of our principals.”
She told MPs that 47 soldiers who were deployed on foreign missions were fired due to ill-discipline.
The Chief of the SANDF has confirmed.
SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke says, “They were endangering their lives and the lives of their comrades. You cannot send soldiers into an operation and they desert their station. That’s very dangerous and I’m sure you will agree with me.”
The defence budget vote drew mixed reaction from MP’s.
Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) MP, Narend Singh says, “The rejuvenation of the defence force must be prioritised. We are having an ageing defence force leadership.”
The Defence Minister has stressed that despite budget cuts, there are no plans to reduce the number of SANDF soldiers.